Sleep deprivation can increase your risk in getting Alzheimer’s disease according to scientists at Washington University in St. Louis. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and affects more than 5 million Americans.
Eight participants, ages 30-60 were put through a variety of tests over 36 hours.
They either received a full night’s rest without sleeping aids; some stayed awake throughout the night; and others slept with the help of a sleeping aid.
Sleep Deprivation: Results
The results showed that participants who slept very little produced more of the protein amyloid beta, which is linked to Alzheimer’s.
Beta-amyloid comes from a larger protein found in the fatty membrane surrounding nerve cells. It is chemically “sticky” and gradually builds up into plaques. These small clumps can block cell-to-cell signaling at neuron endings, called synapses. In addition, they may also activate immune system cells that can trigger inflammation and devour disabled cells.
Amyloid plaques or bundles are the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Participants who experienced a lack of sleep saw their amyloid beta levels increase by as much as 30 percent.
In addition, those who took sleeping medication had a similar low level of amyloid proteins to those who slept uninterrupted without the help of a sleeping aid.
The study found that levels of amyloid beta in the sleep deprived group, were comparable to people who are genetically predisposed to contract Alzheimer’s at a relatively young age.
These results suggest that a better sleeping routine may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s for people with sleeping disorders.