To sleep, perchance to… ward off Alzheimer’s? New research suggests poor sleep may increase people’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease, by spurring a brain-clogging gunk that in turn further interrupts shut-eye.
Disrupted sleep may be one of the missing pieces in explaining how a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, a sticky protein called beta-amyloid, starts its damage long before people have trouble with memory, researchers reported Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
“It’s very clear that sleep disruption is an under-appreciated factor,” said Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, who presented data linking amyloid levels with people’s sleep and memory performance. “It’s a new player on the scene that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Sleep problems are treatable — and a key next question is whether improving sleep can make a difference in protecting seniors’ brains.