Sleep Disruption May Increase Alzheimer’s Risk

New research, presented on July 20, 2015 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, suggests that sleep disruption and especially lack of sleep may increase the risk of developing AD.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada nearly 750,000 Canadians are living with AD or dementia today;  that translates to about 15 per cent of the population over 65 and the risk for dementia double every five years after the age of 65.   Numbers are expected to reach 1.4 million by 2031.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley have found that poor sleep not only hinders the ability to focus and learn but it may be part of a cycle in which amyloids (a sticky protein associated with AD) create a “pathway through which Alzheimer’s Disease may cause memory decline later if life,” reports the Associated Press.

Adequate sleep is important for overall health and it is recommended that adults get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night.  The Berkeley study measured amyloid levels in 26 cognitively healthy seniors in their 70s.  The more of the sticky gunk found in certain parts of the brain, the less sleep volunteers reported getting and the more often they forgot words they were given to memorize.  It is believed that information was not properly transferred from short term to long term memory in those who had elevated amyloid levels.  More study is needed to evaluate if improving quality and duration of sleep will help protect the brain of older adults.

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