Better Sleep May Be Incredibly Important to Alzheimer’s Risk

HEALTH, 27 Jul 2015

The Associated Press – TRANSCEND Media Service

Disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how Alzheimer’s starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory.

21 Jul 2015 – 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.

Disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, a sticky protein called beta-amyloid, starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory, researchers reported Monday [20 Jul] at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

“It’s very clear that sleep disruption is an underappreciated factor,” said Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, who presented data linking amyloid levels with people’s sleep and memory performance. “It’s a new player on the scene that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sleep problems are treatable – and a key next question is whether improving sleep can make a difference in protecting seniors’ brains.

“Sleep is a modifiable factor. It’s a new treatment target,” Walker said.

Enough sleep is important for good health generally – seven to eight hours a night are recommended for adults. When it comes to the brain, scientists have long known that people who don’t get enough have trouble learning and focusing. And anyone who’s cared for someone with dementia knows the nightly wandering and other sleep disturbances that patients often suffer, long thought to be a consequence of the dying brain cells.

Related: The Breathing Trick That Puts You to Sleep in Seconds

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