If you’re like many people- particularly in this economy, doing more work for far, far less pay than you were just a few years ago- you probably know that getting less sleep than you should is rather unpleasant.
Studies have linked sleep deprivation with depression, weight gain and a host of unpleasant side effects, and you can add “possibly Alzheimer’s” to the list. Among diseases we don’t understand all that well, Alzheimers is one of the scarier ones. Involving progressively more serious dementia, the illness is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. And among the causes of death that are the ten most common, Alzheimer’s is the only one that cannot be treated, its progress slowed or cured by any sort of medical intervention.
The study, out of Washington State University, centered around a protein linked with Alzheimer’s disease known as amyloid beta. Amyloid beta levels are higher when humans are in wake cycles and lower in sleep cycles. Study subjects were monitored while using computers, eating, and drinking, but amyloid beta levels only fluctuated in relation to being awake or asleep, said associate professor of neurology Randall Bateman, M.D.
Dr. Bateman said that research funding for the disease is lacking, and that a down economy didn’t help that:
“We focus on it because there’s simply not very good treatment or diagnoses for Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a fairly neglected disease. It costs this country more than a hundred billion dollars a year, yet we invest less than one billion dollars a year into that.”
“There’s a particularly difficult problem right now with funding at the NIH [National Institute of Health], the government, as well as with the macroeconomic situation of the economy being down, which has severely affected pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs.”
Finally, he noted:
“Unless the younger generation recognizes this and supports research in this area, there won’t be enough time to prevent parents or grandparents from this disease.”