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Published on: June 14, 2015
A poor night’s sleep and the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease could have a strong link, suggests a new research. Apparently, the protein that prevents you from securing sound sleep is the same one that triggers memory loss.
Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, in the U.S. have discovered proof that the protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s disease, known as beta-amyloid, could also be the one responsible for blocking deep, restorative sleep. The deep sleep is quite critical for us humans as it rearranges short-term memories into the region of the brain that stores them, shared neuroscientist William Jagust, who was involved in the study,
“Over the past few years, the links between sleep, beta-amyloid, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease have been growing stronger. Our study shows that this beta-amyloid deposition may lead to a vicious cycle in which sleep is further disturbed and memory impaired.”
Beta-amyloid proteins are supposed to have a very short lifespan. Though they are produced naturally in healthy brains, they are cleaned out each and every night while we are in deep slumber, technically referred to as non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. However, if they aren’t destroyed and start building up, people start experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as sleep disorders. This is the first time scientists have looked at the unifying phenomena in human participants.
To test their hypothesis, scientists asked 26 adults in their senior years to take a memory test involving 120 words. Thereafter, they were asked to sleep, and the tests were repeated in the morning. The scientists discovered those adults who had the highest levels of beta-amyloid in their medial frontal cortex had the worst night’s sleep and also performed the worst on the memory test the next day. What this also meant was owing to poor sleep and the accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins, the participants’ brains couldn’t make temporary memories permanent, added said lead researcher Matthew Walker.
“The more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the less deep sleep you get and, consequently, the worse your memory. Additionally, the less deep sleep you have the less effective you are at clearing out this bad protein. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Interestingly, the scientists aren’t sure which of these two factors — the bad sleep or the bad protein that kickstarts the cycle — is the cause. However, the research surely suggests that poor sleep could be an early indicator or one of the causes of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps getting a good night’s sleep might fend off Alzheimer’s, as well.
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