One of the signs of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is poor sleep; individuals with AD wake up exhausted and become less refreshed as their symptoms progress. Until now it was not fully understood what this link was between restless nights and AD.
New research has found that older individuals with less slow-wave sleep, the deep sleep needed to wake up feeling refreshed and to consolidate memories, have increased levels of tau, a brain protein. Higher brain levels of tau are an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease as well as being linked to cognitive decline and brain damage. These studies suggest poor sleep quality in later life might be a red flag for brain health deterioration.
In this study over 115 individuals 60 years of age and older participated in this study. Approximately 80% of these participants were considered to have normal cognition. The balance of the participants experienced only mild cognitive impairment. The participants sleep was monitored in their homes over a 7 day period. A portable EEG monitor was placed on their foreheads to measure brain waves during sleep. Additionally a wristwatch type sensor which tracked body movements was used. Levels of tau protein and amyloid beta protein in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid were measure using PET brain scans or spinal taps. Researchers after controlling for factors like movement during sleep, sex and age concluded higher levels of tau in the brain and higher tau-to-amyloid ratios in the spinal fluid was seen in participants with decreased levels of slow-wave sleep. It is the lack of quality sleep that may be the factor that determines AD risks.
Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.7 million Americans. It appears that changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s start silently and work slowly. Amyloid beta protein may begin to form plaques in the brain up to 20 years prior to the classic AD symptoms, confusion and memory loss. Tau protein tangles appear later which are then followed by atrophy of important brain areas. This is when individuals begin to show the recognizable symptoms of cognitive decline. The key would be to identify individuals who are at risk for developing AD prior to changes occurring in the brain interrupt their ability to think clearly. It is now believed that sleep disturbances may be a good marker.
ASK US. WE KNOW. NOBODY KNOWS NUTRITION LIKE WE DO. NOBODY!