Sleep Soundly or Lose Your Memory

Alzheimers disease biomarkers found in healthy adults who wake up repeatedly throughout the night

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(RxWiki News) If you wake up frequently throughout the night you could be at greater risk of memory loss later on, new research suggests.

In a study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting, doctors found biomarkers of the plaque involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) within healthy adults.

The study participants who reported disrupted sleep demonstrated these biomarkers more often than those who got the average (and doctor recommended) eight hours of sleep per night.

"Talk to a doctor if disruptive sleep affects your daily life."

Yo-el Ju, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Washington University Physicians, will present the study with colleagues in New Orleans during the last week of April this year.

Dr. Ju and her coworkers are set to conclude, “Disrupted sleep, as measured by frequency of awakenings or sleep efficiency, is associated with amyloid pathology in a cognitively normal population.”

According to the authors, amyloid plaque buildup is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s and its traces of it can be found in people who otherwise seem healthy.

The disease begins far before symptoms start to show, and these biomarkers signal what doctors call preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

Her research examined the sleep patterns of 100 adults, ages 45-80, twenty-five percent of which were diagnosed with preclinical AD.

The volunteers were recruited from an Alzheimer’s cohort known as the Adult Children Study (ACS) where half of volunteers share a genetic history of the disease. All patients wore actigraph units to bed for two weeks to measure their sleep behaviors with the unit attached to their wrists to monitor their movements throughout the night.

The study found that the preclinical had the most trouble staying asleep.

“Individuals with frequent awakenings [more than five per hour] were more likely to have abnormal biomarkers indicating amyloid pathology,” the researchers explain.

“A greater proportion of individuals with low sleep efficiency [more than 15% of time spent in bed awake) had preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those with high sleep efficiency.”

According to the National Institute of Health, the optimal amount of sleep for adults is around 7-8 hours per night or more for the pregnant and ill. Within Ju’s study, the average adult was in bed for 8 hours though only sleeping around 6.5, indicating patients could use improvements across the board.

“Too little sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day,” indicates the NIH. “It also leads to impaired memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out math calculations.”

In order to combat these issues, our national health source recommends several helpful tips for those struggling to keep their eyes closed at night:

  • Maintain a regular “bedtime” to keep steady sleep cycles.
  • Exercise 20 to 30 minutes each day, preferably earlier in the day, to work muscles and tire the body.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol—all known to either keep you up, wake you up, or deter from time spent in deep and regenerative sleep patterns.
  • Partake in calming activities before bed, such as a reading a book, taking a soothing bath, or meditating. Relaxing before bed can help get the body ready for sleep and doing it continuously can cause it actually help trigger sleep.
  • Don’t lie in bed without sleeping. Unless you’re listening to music or skimming through the paper, just lying there can cause sleep anxiety and contribute to insomnia.
  • Keep a comfortable room temperature. If it’s too hot or too cold where you are sleeping, it may be contributing to sleep issues.
  • Wake up with the sun. The sun helps us replenish vital nutrients and doctors recommend an hour of morning sunlight for those struggling with sleep issues.

Last, but certainly not least, if its hard to fall asleep at night, or if you cannot sleep through the night, talk to a medical health professional.

The research in Dr. Ju's study was funded through the Ellison Foundation and a grant from the National Institute of Health.  No conflicts were reported.

Last Updated:
February 18, 2012