Sleep problems linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

sleep disorder
There are many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep and new research from ECU has found one more: difficulty getting to sleep may be associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers examined the sleeping patterns of 184 people aged over 60 and found that those who reported difficulty getting to sleep had higher levels of Amyloid Beta (Aβ) in their brain, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Researcher Dr Belinda Brown said that while previous studies had shown an association between sleep quality and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, this was the first time that sleep latency, or the time it takes to get to sleep, had been directly linked with Aβ levels in the brain.

“Our findings suggest that taking 30 minutes longer to get to sleep would translate to an equivalent of two years of Aβ accumulation in the brain,” she said.

“We do have to treat these results with some caution because we did not demonstrate that sleep latency is the cause of the Aβ build up, only an association.”

Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith, who also contributed to the research, said it is likely that the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease is bidirectional.

“It is looking increasingly likely that sleep disturbances can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, and evidence is suggesting that problems sleeping can increase the likelihood and severity of Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.

The researchers found no association between other factors such as sleep disturbances and sleep duration and Aβ accumulation.

Dr Rainey-Smith said research was already underway to determine if sleep latency can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have a study running now where we are providing people with non-invasive therapy to improve their sleep and then imaging their brain to determine whether their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease has been reduced.”

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