What Comes First, Sleep Problems or Alzheimer’s?

A recent article studies the pathophysiological factors that relate to sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.  A better understanding of this linkage might result in potential diagnostics and therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease as well as additional neurodegenerative diseases.

Study of Alzheimer’s has focused mainly on the existence of two proteins inside the brain (amyloid beta and tau). Amyloid beta is believed to be responsible for the capability of our brain to adapt. Tau aids in regulating standard signaling in neuronal cells. Individuals having Alzheimer’s disease have been discovered to have both, amyloid beta and tau jumbles.

Prior studies in healthy animals and humans have shown greater levels of amyloid beta after only one night of sleep deficiency. These propose that sleep aids the body in removing extra amyloid beta before a lot of it amasses. The study has also shown that disturbance of slow-wave sleep results in amyloid beta levels rising to as much as 30%. “This evidence demonstrates the significance of sleep in clearing metabolic waste and sleep disruption as a significant mediator in the development of [Alzheimer’s disease],” authors of the article, Shen Ning and Mehdi Jorfi, Ph.D. stated.

The occurrence of tau is an indicator of damage to the nerve cells, explain the authors. Sleep deficiency for just one night has been discovered to raise tau levels by as much as 50%.

The study proposes that the greater production of the amyloid beta and tau and the decreased removal of these proteins is the main causative factor of Alzheimer’s disease. While quality sleep appears to be able to aid the body in clearing excess proteins, “the question remains whether sleep disruption aggravates [Alzheimer’s disease] symptoms and augments disease progression, or if sleep disruption actually initiates the cascade of [Alzheimer’s disease] development,” wrote the researchers.

Additional study on the association between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease “holds great promise in bridging the molecular and cellular biology of sleep in context of the development of [Alzheimer’s disease]. It may even provide helpful therapeutic benefits in preventing not only [Alzheimer’s disease], but also in improving diagnosis and treatments for psychiatric and metabolic diseases,” the researchers conclude.