Can poor sleep lead to Alzheimer's?

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-15 17:39:09-04

(CNN) - One in three Americans doesn't get enough sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has called disrupted sleep a "public health problem" because it's associated with a higher risk of conditions like diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

It's possible researchers will add Alzheimer's and other types of dementia to that list.

A growing body of research in both humans and animals indicates that disturbed sleep leads to higher levels of Alzheimer's related proteins in the brain.

Several studies in people and one in mice have shown a connection between chronic sleep disruption and the depositing of amyloid plaques in the brain.

This is the first known pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer's.

Now, a study published in the journal Neurology is adding to this body of research.

Scientists examined just over 100 cognitively healthy adults with an average age of 63.

They specifically studied the relationship between the participants' sleep quality and levels of various proteins and markers in the cerebrospinal fluid.

Researchers found that people with disturbed sleep were more likely to show evidence of brain cell damage along with inflammation and damage to brain proteins  responsible for cell stability and structure.

The study's co-author said their research aligns with the notion that that poor sleep could contribute to the accumulation of Alzheimer's related proteins in the brain and hopes that the research leads to opportunities for early intervention.

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