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How does our sleep affect the risk of Alzheimer's?
There are various studies that have found a possible connection between sleep quality and the development of dementia and Alzheimer's. Researchers have now found that impaired deep sleep appears to be linked to cognitive decline in Alzheimer's.
The researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found in their current study that disorders of a specific sleep phase are linked to early stages of cognitive decline. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Science Translational Medicine".
Increased levels of tau protein due to insufficient sleep?
Sleep is important to the human body, as is well known. How does it affect diseases like Alzheimer's if our sleep is disturbed? In the past year, it has already been found that sleep deprivation can directly lead to an increase in amyloid beta accumulation in the brain, which can also be observed in people with Alzheimer's. The current study clarifies the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer's. The hypothesis behind the research is that decreased deep sleep can correlate with an increase in tau protein in the brain. In addition to amyloid beta proteins, tau proteins are associated with cognitive decline in Alzheimer's.
What have the experts examined?
In their study, the researchers examined the sleep patterns of 119 subjects over the age of 60, the majority of whom were cognitively healthy and showed no signs of dementia or Alzheimer's. The sleep patterns of the subjects were monitored for a period of one week using sensors and portable EEG monitors. Tau and amyloid levels were also monitored in all subjects using PET scans or the sampling of spinal fluid.
Deep sleep has a massive impact on brain health
The results of the study showed that people with less deep sleep had higher levels of tau protein in the brain. This stage of a person's sleep cycle is closely related to memory consolidation. Many experts also believe that deep sleep is vital for maintaining overall brain health.
Deep sleep and its effects on tau proteins
Apparently, the total amount of sleep is not related to the tau protein, but only our deep sleep, which also says a lot about our sleep quality, explains study author Brendan Lucey from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. However, some questions remain unanswered. It is unclear whether bad sleep is ultimately the cause or consequence of diseases such as Alzheimer's. It is also not clear whether sleep changes precede or follow pathological changes in the brain, the experts explain. The explanations for age-related neurodegenerative diseases are undoubtedly more complicated than the result of years of poor sleep, the doctors add. However, researchers suspect that sleep disorders can be an effective early warning tool to help doctors identify patients in the earliest preclinical cognitive stages.
Examining sleep as a screening for Alzheimer's?
An inverse relationship could be found between decreased sleep and increased levels of tau protein in humans who were either cognitively normal or only very slightly impaired. This could mean that decreased deep sleep is a marker for the transition from healthy to cognitive impairment, Lacey explains. Examining people's sleep can be a non-invasive method of screening for Alzheimer's, especially if people have memory and thinking problems. (as)