There is some disturbing news from the scientific community based on research that those who have trouble sleeping or experience poor quality sleep are more susceptible to developing Alzheimer's disease later in life.
A recent study supported by the Ellison Foundation and the National Institutes of Health stated that there is a link between the amount and quality of sleep a person gets and their memories as they age.
The findings of the study were presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Orleans late last month.
According to Yo-El Ju, MD, the lead author of the study, "Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a hallmark marker of Alzheimer's disease, in the brains of people without memory problems.
Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline."
In the study 100 healthy adults free from dementia at the time of study and between the ages forty-five and eighty were observed for their sleep quality for a fortnight.
The data was collected through questionnaires as well as from the sleep diaries maintained by the participants. Almost 50 percent of the participants had a family history of Alzheimer's though they themselves were free from the condition when the study commenced.
It was found that:
• the average time spent in bed was eight hours
• the average sleep time was six and a half hours
• 25 percent of the participants showed signs of amyloid plaques in their brain images
Amyloids are protein fragments produced by the body. One kind is beta amyloid. Beta amyloid is a protein fragment snipped from an amyloid precursor protein (APP).
In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. In those who have Alzheimer's, the protein fragments accumulate to form hard and insoluble plaques between nerve cells or neurons in the brain.
Those with lesser hours of sleep were found to be waking up more than five times every hour and so they experienced disturbed and poor quality sleep. These were also the people who were more likely to have an amyloid plaque build-up in their brain.
The poor sleepers were also more likely to have other markers of early stage Alzheimer's disease. Only those who spent more than 85 percent of their total time in bed actually sleeping were less likely to show markers of early Alzheimer's, such as amyloid plaque development and inflammation of the immune cells.
According to Ju, "The association between disrupted sleep and amyloid plaques is intriguing, but the information from this study can't determine a cause-effect relationship or the direction of this relationship. We need longer-term studies, following individuals' sleep over years, to determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques, or whether brain changes in early Alzheimer's disease lead to changes in sleep. Our study lays the groundwork for investigating whether manipulating sleep is a possible strategy in the prevention or slowing of Alzheimer disease."