Poor sleep linked to Alzheimer's
08 June 2015 08:39
Sleeplessness may lead to the memory being attacked
Scientists are linking bad sleep to Alzheimer's disease.
US researchers claim that disrupted sleep can lead to the beta-amyloid toxic protein becoming more prolific in the human brain and attacking memory capacity.
Berkeley/University of California's scientists hope that the new study could lead to memory loss being treated by addressing sleep deprivation in future.
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What did the study find?
It is an established medical fact that sleep washes away people's toxic proteins - which can potentially wreck brain cells - during the night.
Scientists showed that beta-amyloid not only destroys memory, it also disturbs people's sleep still further, leading to a vicious circle.
This can lead in time to Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain condition typified by brain cells being killed off.
Researchers originally suspected the link.
This was because substantial accumulations of beta-amyloid had been shared in people with sleeping disorders and Alzheimer's.
The US study tested 26 adults' memories after varying amounts of sleep before discovering tell-tale associations between sleep deprivation and memory loss.
It did this by getting volunteers to try and remember 120 pairs of words, then attaching scans to monitor brain patterns while they slept. The participants were re-tested the following morning.
Where could the discovery lead?
Scientists are hopeful that by treating sleeplessness they could also stop memory loss in patients in future.
This could be addressed by measures such as behavioural therapy and physical activity.
What the experts say
Matthew Walker called the findings "hopeful" and said sleep could offer "novel" therapeutic targets when it came to fighting older adults' memory problems and even dementia.
Prof Walker said that regular sleep can powerfully cleanse the brain.
Colleague William Jagust, a neuroscientist, said that beta-amyloid can lead to "vicious cycles" regarding sleep loss.
Nature Neuroscience reported the research.