Posted by Leanne Kodsman on
In recent years, it feels like we've been hearing time and again that there are health benefits to taking our sleep seriously. New research suggests that one of these benefits could be a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
We've heard it our whole lives - sleep is a remedy that is frequently recommended among family and friends without even really thinking about it. Have a problem? "Sleep on it!" Feeling discouraged? Well, "everything looks better in the morning." Even the Dalai Lama has weighed in, stating that "Sleep is the best meditation."
New research suggests that there may be more wisdom than we even knew in all this sleep-related advice, and that getting enough sleep may be tied to lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
It's present in age-old wisdom - phrases like "sleep on it" or "everything looks better in the morning" feel so routine that we don't even notice them anymore. But getting a good night of sleep, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, could be a way to help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Poor sleep and beta-amyloid plaques
The new study, "Excessive daytime sleepiness and napping in cognitively normal adults: associations with subsequent amyloid deposition measured by PiB PET," published recently in the journal SLEEP, is the most recent in a long line of research that illustrates a common thread between poor sleep and brain deposits of beta-amyloid, a common characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Not only that, but the data suggests that - along with factors like diet and exercise - getting high-quality sleep at night could actually help to prevent the disease, and treating patients with sleep issues could help to avoid negative outcomes like Alzheimer's.
How and why?
At the moment, it is not known why, exactly, daytime sleepiness seems to be correlated with the presence of beta-amyloid plaques. The researchers note that they cannot rule out the possibility that the amyloid plaques themselves may have caused the sleepiness, and others are curious as to whether the sleepiness itself could cause the protein to form in the brain.
Previous research seems to indicate that disturbed or insufficient sleep causes these plaques to form via a mechanism that is not yet known or defined, and that these issues could also cause someone to report excessive daytime sleepiness.
What we know so far...
Previous studies in Alzheimer's disease animal models have found an increase in beta-amyloid protein in the brain and spinal fluid when nighttime sleep is restricted, and some human studies have linked poor sleep to more beta-amyloid in neuronal tissue.
Researchers have known for quite some time that Alzheimer's patients commonly experience sleep disturbances, and sleep is negatively impacted by the brain changes that come from growing beta-amyloid plaques.
As there is not yet any known cure for Alzheimer's disease, prevention is key. Making a good night of quality sleep a priority, along with other lifestyle changes related to diet, exercise, and cognitive activity, could help to prevent or slow the condition.
Further Reading & References:
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News: Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Could Be Linked to Alzheimer's. 07 Sept 2018. https://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/excessive-daytime-sleepiness-could-be-linked-to-alzheimers/81256211
Adam P Spira, Yang An, Mark N Wu, Jocelynn T Owusu, Eleanor M Simonsick, Murat Bilgel, Luigi Ferrucci, Dean F Wong, Susan M Resnick; Excessive daytime sleepiness and napping in cognitively normal adults: associations with subsequent amyloid deposition measured by PiB PET, Sleep, , zsy152, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy152