Trouble sleeping may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers say 


New research published Monday in the journal “JAMA Neurology” is the latest to link disrupted sleep patterns with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that is projected to affect 14 million people by 2050, according to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

>> Read more trending news 

It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

To examine the link between sleep and Alzheimer’s, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, tracked the sleep cycles of 189 adults with an average age 66 who had no signs of cognitive impairment. They also studied their brains for proteins and plaques related to the disease.

>> Related: Alzheimer’s disease fueled by gut bacteria, new study finds 

They found that in older people with no signs of cognitive impairment, those who had a messy sleep-wake cycle were more likely to have amyloid protein deposits in their brains.

“It wasn’t that the people in the study were sleep-deprived,” study author Erik S. Musiek, said in a news release. “But their sleep tended to be fragmented. Sleeping for eight hours at night is very different from getting eight hours of sleep in one-hour increments during daytime naps.”

Those amyloid protein deposits (or plaques) are considered sure signs of the disease. Amyloid levels typically decrease during sleep and increase when sleep is disrupted or when people don’t get enough good sleep, researchers said.

>> Related: Can extra-virgin olive oil preserve memory and prevent Alzheimer’s? 

In Alzheimer’s, the amyloid protein divides improperly to form a sticky beta amyloid, which is toxic to neurons in the brain and leads to the popular symptoms associated with the disease, including memory loss.

Alzheimer’s-associated memory loss can begin 15 or 20 years before symptoms of the disease are even noticed.

>> Related: How does Alzheimer's disease kill you? 

“At the very least, these disruptions in circadian rhythms may serve as a biomarker for preclinical disease,” senior author Yo-El Ju added. “We want to bring back these subjects in the future to learn more about whether their sleep and circadian rhythm problems lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk or whether the Alzheimer’s disease brain changes cause sleep/wake cycle and circadian problems.”

>> Related: U.S. Alzheimer’s deaths up 55 percent, CDC says

The new findings are part of growing evidence of the link between sleep problems and Alzheimer’s.

In July 2017, scientists found that after adjusting for age and family history of the disease, poor sleep and daytime sleepiness were linked to spinal fluid indicators of Alzheimer’s.

>> Related: Man says mother with Alzheimer's 'comes back to me when we sing'

Not everyone with sleep problems is destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” senior author of the 2017 study, Barbara B. Bendlin, told the New York Times. “We’re looking at groups of people, and over the whole group we find the association of poor sleep with the markers of Alzheimer’s. But when you look at individuals, not everyone shows that pattern.” 

Read the full study at jamanetwork.com.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Naked man on ATV leads police on hour-long chase
Naked man on ATV leads police on hour-long chase

A naked man riding an ATV refused to stop for authorities in Missouri on Sunday, prompting an hour-long chase in Kansas City, according to multiple reports. Police initiated a chase at 2:20 p.m. after getting a report of a suspicious, naked man riding an ATV near 8400 Northeast Sam Ray Road in Kansas City, North, according to the Kansas City Star...
Construction on temporary Pulse memorial set to begin
Construction on temporary Pulse memorial set to begin

Construction of a temporary memorial to remember the victims and survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting will begin this week, according to the onePulse Foundation. Crews have started gathering photos, flowers and other keepsakes left at the nightclub where 49 people died and more than 100 others were injured in the June 12, 2016, shooting...
$10K reward offered for information in case of missing CDC employee
$10K reward offered for information in case of missing CDC employee

The family of a missing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worker has partnered with Crime Stoppers to offer a reward for information in the case. Timothy Cunningham, 35, was reported missing Feb. 16 after he called in sick to work Feb. 12 and has not been seen or heard from since, according to Atlanta police. Police said Cunningham's...
Patient blindsided by $17,850 urine test that insurer said was worth $100
Patient blindsided by $17,850 urine test that insurer said was worth $100

After Elizabeth Moreno had back surgery in late 2015, her surgeon prescribed an opioid painkiller and a follow-up drug test that seemed routine — until the lab slapped her with a bill for thousands of dollars. A Houston lab tested her urine sample for a constellation of legal and illicit drugs, many of which, Moreno said, she had never heard...
Florida school shooting survivor's mother says her family has received death threats
Florida school shooting survivor's mother says her family has received death threats

The mother of Florida school shooting survivor David Hogg is speaking out after her family received death threats because her son and another survivor were accused of being crisis actors. Hogg and fellow students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have made frequent media appearances to call for action on...
More Stories