Scientists in the US have found cognitively healthy people with disrupted sleep patterns may be more likely to have markers associated with early Alzheimerâ€™s disease. The study is due to be presented at theÂ American Academy of Neurologyâ€™sÂ 64th Annual Meeting in April.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St Louis, studied 100 people with no cognitive problems between the ages of 45 and 80. They used a monitoring device called an actigraph to measure the participantsâ€™ sleeping patterns for two weeks, and analysed sleep diaries and questionnaires.
The researchers took samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to check for levels of amyloid, a protein that builds in the brain in Alzheimerâ€™s. The participants also underwent PET scans to track the amount of amyloid in their brains.
A quarter of the group had increased amounts of amyloid in the brain or abnormal levels of the protein in their CSF â€“ changes that are believed to be linked to the earliest stages of Alzheimerâ€™s disease. The markers were more likely to be seen in people with disrupted sleep patterns, who woke more than five times an hour during the night.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimerâ€™s Research UK, said:
â€œThese results are yet to be published in full, but the study does raise new questions about the possible relationship between sleep patterns and the likelihood of developing Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Itâ€™s not clear whether any of the people in this study went on to develop Alzheimerâ€™s, and we cannot conclude from this research that disrupted sleep causes the disease â€“ but larger, long-term studies could help us to better understand how the two may be linked.
â€œExperts believe that Alzheimerâ€™s begins to develop in mid-life, years before symptoms appear, but we still need to know much more about the changes that occur in the earliest stages of the disease. The better we can understand how Alzheimerâ€™s develops, the greater our chance of finding an effective treatment for the disease â€“ but that means itâ€™s vital to invest in research.â€
This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.
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