Sleep Deprivation Linked to Increased Chances of Alzheimer’s

According to the results of a new study conducted on the sleeping patterns of individuals, it has been discovered that the lack of a regular resting schedule could enhance the levels of a protein known as beta-amyloid, which is a marker related to Alzheimer’s disease.

The study involved 20 participants who were placed in a controlled environment by the researchers to determine their brains’ reaction to various circumstances.

The first test involved having the subjects undergo an uninterrupted night’s sleep at the National Institutes of Health, after which a PET scan was carried out to monitor the protein levels in their brains. The second test involved the same participants undergoing a night at the center where their sleep was interrupted every 60 minutes by a nurse, and they were afterward submitted to a PET scan 31 hours into their sleep-disrupting endeavor with strict instructions that required them to remain awake throughout the procedure.

Sleep Deprivation and Protein Buildup

Both tests took place in between a two-week interval to ensure accurate results and were conducted by qualified professionals with the basic medical skills required such as CPR for adults, as well as more specialized abilities in their armory. The candidates who took part in this research ranged between the ages of 22 and 72 years.

The results showed that 19 of the 20 people who participated in this research exhibited higher levels of beta-amyloid in their brains after enduring a sleepless night when compared to the baseline rates that were collected during their night of normal sleep. Though none of the levels recorded were high enough to represent an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, the fluctuating presence of the protein suggested that there could be a relationship between an individual’s sleeping habits and the overall contraction of this type of dementia. It should be noted that Alzheimer’s is partly diagnosed via the identification of thick beta-amyloid plaques in the brain via the use of a PET scan. However, the actual reason for the accumulation of this protein has yet to be satisfactorily identified.

Beta-amyloid Proteins in the Brain

It has been established that every individual produces beta-amyloid proteins in their brains at lower levels that serve as precursors to other types of proteins. Part of a healthy brain’s activity involves the cleaning up of this accumulation on a regular basis, and a hypothesis has been developed stating that sleep helps the body carry out these Waste Management activities. The study represented the first of its kind to include humans in a controlled environment and could go a long way in developing a connection between the production and management of this particular protein in the brain, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers of this study are currently trying to determine whether the increased levels of beta-amyloid in the brain were as a result of the sleep deprivation tactics hindering the cleanup process usually applied at that time, or as a result of heightened levels of production taking place due to the disruptions experienced by the participants.