Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer’s Disease

November 15, 2017

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According to research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of memory issues and Alzheimer’s disease. The study indicates that regular restorative sleep helps to clean away toxic proteins called beta-amyloid that build up in the brain. Beta-amyloid attacks the brain’s long-term memory storage and is a main factor behind Alzheimer’s disease. However, a sufficient amount of sleep can prevent these harmful beta-amyloid proteins from accumulating and then damaging nerve cells.

The study included observation of 26 adults from age 65 to 81 who had not been diagnosed with dementia or sleep, neurodegenerative or psychiatric disorders. Each person received a brain scan to measure any accumulation of beta-amyloid and was asked to memorize 120 word pairings. After eight hours of sleep, the participants were asked to recall the word pairings while undergoing an MRI. Those with the highest level of beta-amyloid were the ones who had the hardest time with sleep and the hardest time recalling the word pairs. Some of them could not remember more than 50 percent of the word pairs. Researchers concluded that lack of sleep may increase the nerve damage that results in the breakdown in communication pathways, killing crucial nerve cells.

An upsurge in America’s baby boomers is expected to result in a rise in the number of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The good news is that guarding sleep patterns and length of time one sleeps may very well help to keep one’s thinking and memory sharp. Sleep deprivation can affect many parts of our lives. If you or a loved one you are helping to care for are having a hard time getting a sufficient amount of sleep, make sure you discuss with your medical doctor to try to come up with some ways to ensure a good night’s rest.