Sleep deprivation may play a part in Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. Just one night of lost sleep leads to the immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with the disease, a press release states. Beta-amyloid proteins clump together to form amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of the disease. This is the first study that demonstrates sleep may play an important role in human beta-amyloid clearance. Beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells.
“Even though our sample was small, this study demonstrated the negative effect of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid burden in the human brain. Future studies are needed to assess the generalizability to a larger and more diverse population,” Dr. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori says. It is also important to note that the link between sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s risk is considered by many scientists to be “bidirectional,” since elevated beta-amyloid may also lead to sleep disturbances.