Bad Sleep May Mean Bad Memory

Alzheimers disease may be predicted by poor quality of sleep

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(RxWiki News) Do you get enough sleep? Do you wake up frequently in the middle of the night? Sleep problems could lead to memory problems later in life and make you more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease.

If you wake up 5 or more times per hour during sleep you are more likely to have amyloid plaque build up. Amyloids are protein fragments that the body produces normally, however, a normal brain can clean up these fragments. Those with Alzheimer’s cannot and instead show a build up of amyloid.

"Ask your doctor for help if you have trouble sleeping."

Study author Yo-El Ju, M.D., from Washington University School of Medicine and member of the American Academy of Neurology, says that "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.”

The researchers tested sleep patterns of 100 people between the ages of 45 and 80 who did not have dementia. Half of the test group had a family history of Alzheimer’s. A device was placed on participants to measure sleep patterns. In addition, participants answered questionnaires and kept sleep diaries.

25% of participants showed evidence of amyloid plaques, which can appear years before other signs of Alzheimer’s.

The average time in bed was about 8 hours but the average time actually sleeping was 6.5 hours due to short awakenings in the night.

Those participants who woke up 5 or more times per hour were more likely to have the amyloid plaque build up. Basically, people who did not get a good night's rest were more likely to show early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the study cannot determine the exact nature of the relationship between the sleep patterns and the development of amyloid plaques.

"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," Dr. Ju said. "Our study lays the groundwork for investigating whether manipulating sleep is a possible strategy in the prevention or slowing of Alzheimer disease."

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans April 21 to April 28, 2012. The research was funded by the Ellison Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Last Updated:
February 14, 2012