We’ve been told that poor sleep interrupts the brain’s natural process of eliminating waste and calibrating memory, but a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison goes a step further.
Researchers looked at 101 people, with an average age of 63, who are considered higher risk for Alzheimer’s because they have a parent with the disease or carry the ApoE4 gene. During the study, they took surveys on their sleep quality and gave samples of their cerebrospinal fluid. The conclusion was clear – those who reported a history of bad sleep, had more biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease like brain cell damage, inflammation, beta amyloid plaque and tangles in their spinal fluid.
What wasn’t clear was whether the development of Alzheimer’s disease affects people’s sleep or poor sleep can lead to Alzheimer’s. But a new study by researchers at Washington University has shown that interrupting one night’s sleep for middle-aged adults led to an increase in levels of beta amyloid and tau in the their cerebrospinal fluid. One night won’t make a difference to your risk for Alzheimer’s but scientists believe that chronic sleep problems could be interfering with the brain’s ability to clear out the toxic forms of the proteins that lead to cell death.