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Alzheimer's link to lack of sleep

25th September 2009

Researchers say there could be a link between lack of sleep and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.


Having too little sleep could help toxic plaques develop in the brain and accelerate the progression of Alzheimer's.

David Holtzman and his research group looked at how sleep affected the levels of beta-amyloid protein in mice and humans. This protein causes plaques to build up in the brain, which some think cause Alzheimer's disease by killing cells.

He found that beta-amyloid levels were higher in mouse brains when the mice were awake than when they were sleeping.

When Holtzman sent the mice to sleep with Almorexant – a drug being trialled for insomnia – the amount of plaque-forming protein was reduced.

He suggests that getting more sleep could limit the formation of plaques and perhaps block it altogether.

Levels of beta-amyloid were also measured in the cerebrospinal fluid of 10 healthy men at night and during the day. At night, the levels were lower.

Neuroscientist Damian Crowther from Cambridge University said while people with Alzheimer's are known to suffer sleep abnormalities, it is not known whether these are a cause or a symptom of the disease.

Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: “It is interesting that there may be a link between sleep and the build-up of the protein associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease.

“However, there are many other biological factors that may have an impact on the protein's production, so further research in this area would be needed.”


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Article Information

Title: Alzheimer's link to lack of sleep
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 12749
Date Added: 25th Sep 2009


New Scientist

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