Older people who don’t get enough sleep at night may have damaging plaque accumulating in their brain that is a sign of looming Alzheimer’s disease, researchers report.
The major symbol of Alzheimer’s is the amassing of a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid. According to research, one benefit of sleep is to clear beta-amyloid, and poor sleep might cause it to accumulate.
Corresponding author Prashanthi Vemuri, an associate professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn said;
“Ageing individuals who sleep excessively during the day may be more exposed to Alzheimer’s disease-related changes.”
Vemuri stated that the new study is only observational and as such does not prove that poor sleep causes an increase in beta-amyloid.
However, the association is so strong that a link between sleep and beta-amyloid probably exists, but precisely what that link may be is not yet clear, Vemuri added.
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It’s also uncertain how much poor sleep it takes to upsurge beta-amyloid accumulation, the researchers said.
Although beta-amyloid accumulation is a sign of Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t doom one to the disease, and might only be a sign of other aging processes, Vemuri suggested.
Sleep has been proposed to be significant for clearance of brain amyloid, this study affirms that disturbed sleep may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease through increased amyloid.
The researchers studied nearly 300 people aged 70 and older who didn’t suffer from dementia. About 22 percent reported having excessive daytime sleepiness when the study started.
Study participants completed a survey about sleep and had at least two brain scans between 2009 and 2016.
The researchers compared the scans in search of changes in the brain. They found increased beta-amyloids in key brain areas in participants who reported being very sleepy during the day and who slept less at night.
Researchers now need to study whether treating sleep disturbances reduces plaque accumulation, he added.
The study was published online March 12 in the journal JAMA Neurology.