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Sunday 16th June 2019

Alzheimer's risk predicted by sleep

6th September 2012

Researchers have explored a possible link between sleeping problems and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.


In a study published in the journal Science Translational Research, they found that when plaques – clumps of protein in the brain thought to be a component of the condition – first developed in mice, the rodents began to have disrupted sleep patterns.

They say if that applies to people, it could be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer's Research UK says if the link was proven it could become a useful tool for doctors and has called for more studies in people to see if there was a connection between sleep patterns and Alzheimer’s.

Dr Marie Janson from the charity said: “There has already been research linking changes in sleep patterns to a decline in thinking skills, but these results suggest that disrupted sleep may also be a warning sign of Alzheimer's.

“If research confirms specific sleep changes as a possible early marker of Alzheimer's, it could prove a useful strategy for doctors to identify patients at risk of the disease.”

The research was carried out at Washington University and showed that nocturnal mice slept for 40 minutes during every hour of daylight but that fell to 30 minutes as soon brain plaques started to form.

Researcher Professor David Holtzman said: “If sleep abnormalities begin this early in the course of human Alzheimer's disease, those changes could provide us with an easily detectable sign.”

Experts, however, acknowledge there are many reasons for disrupted sleep in humans.


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