To sleep, perchance to… ward off Alzheimer’s? New research suggests poor sleep may increase people’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease, by spurring a brain-clogging gunk that in turn further interrupts shut-eye.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Monday, Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, announced: “It’s very clear that sleep disruption is an under-appreciated factor. It’s a new player on the scene that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” Walker and other researchers gave 26 cognitively healthy volunteers in their 70s PET scans to measure the build up of beta-amyloids, sticky proteins that are the main component of plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The subjects were given words to memorize and their brain waves were measured as they slept.
The team found that the more amyloids deposited in a particular brain region, the less deep sleep a person got, The Associated Press reports. The poor sleepers also forgot more overnight, since their memories weren’t properly transferred from short-term to long-term storage. Researchers suggest that people at risk for Alzheimer’s be screened for sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea. They also recommend more physical activity, and, of course, getting more sleep.