This Sleep Pattern Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Usually neurons shrink while we sleep, allowing waste products to clear.

Usually neurons shrink while we sleep, allowing waste products to clear.

A single night of lost sleep increases proteins in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s, new research shows.

People not allowed to sleep for one night showed elevated levels of beta amyloid, the clumps of protein seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

As these build up, they hamper the brain’s ability to function.

Dr Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, the study’s first author, said:

“We certainly show that even oe night of sleep deprivation can increase the levels of these harmful beta amyloid compounds.

That’s a very logical assumption, I would say, and it’s consistent with prior research.”

The researchers recruited 20 healthy people who were allowed to sleep normally one night and were kept up the next night.

Brain scans were used to assess levels of beta amyloid.

Dr Ehsan Shokri-Kojori explained:

“…the beta amyloid increases were observed in regions of the brain important to memory and thought.

These included the hippocampus, which has been tied to memory, and the thalamus, which is an important hub for relaying sensory information to the brain.”

Usually, while we sleep, neurons in the brain get smaller, which allows waste products to be cleared.

Dr. Andrew Varga, a sleep scientist not connected to the study, said:

“It makes intuitive sense that if you have chronically high levels of beta amyloid they would congregate together and form plaques, but that piece of it is not fully fleshed out.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Shokri-Kojori et al., 2018).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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