Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Does a Lack of Sleep Contribute to Alzheimer's?

Does a Lack of Sleep Contribute to Alzheimer's?

Feb 16 2019 Read 1823 Times

While there are many contributing factors that can increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, there are few conclusive studies that state what causes the illness. However, recent research suggests that a lack of sleep could increase a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep reading as we explore the research and its findings.

Excessive proteins in the brain

A study by David Holtzman, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, found that a sleep-deprived brain has an abundant amount of a protein, known as tau. Tau is associated with nerve cell death and is seen to spread throughout the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. Another protein, amyloid-beta, is highly present in the brains of sleep-deprived adults and also dots the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Holtzman and his team collected samples of cerebrospinal fluid from 8 adults, which were monitored during a night or normal sleep and during a 36-hour course of sleep deprivation. The results were shocking, with a 51.5% tau increase in sleep-deprived participants suggesting that the duration of sleep can significantly impact the levels of tau in the brain.

Both amyloid-beta and tau are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, contributing to the problems with thinking and memory, and both proteins are seen to increase significantly when subject to a lack of sleep. “It certainly argues that treating sleep disorders during mid-life as well as getting appropriate levels of sleep is likely to decrease risk for Alzheimer’s disease” says Holtzman.

Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s

The brain seems to clear out excess proteins and regulate itself during sleep, so without adequate sleep, the brain may not have chance to properly rid itself of excess proteins. Previous research suggests that the production of tau increases when brain nerve cells are highly active, which would occur more when a person is awake and so sleep deprivation would produce higher nerve cell activity.

Around 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 are affected by dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common type of the condition. The results of this study suggest that, while there is little research suggesting the disease can be prevented or cured, monitoring the amount of sleep individuals get and treating sleep disorders early could help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and could decrease some symptoms.

Of course, there are also ongoing efforts to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s. The article ‘Choosing the Optimum Plasma Spectrochemistry Technique for Measuring Elemental Impurities in Pharmaceuticals’ delves deeper into the pharmaceutical industry and how products are tested for impurities.

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