A new study explains why chronic poor sleep is associated with cognitive decline. The scientists found that having sleepless nights or lack of sleep could augment the levels of Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta.
The findings of the study were described in Annals of Neurology. The study was led by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Once the amyloid beta levels in the brain are elevated, the protein would likely start collecting into plaques. These plaques then harm the surrounding neurons and could cause brain changes that are damaging. The levels of protein rise and set off changes to the brain leading to dementia. Experts say that the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease have these plaques.
Randall Bateman, MD, the senior author of the study and the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology, said that the research indicates that sleep disruption could lead to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease through an amyloid beta mechanism. He further said that the reason behind this was because of the overproduction of amyloid beta during sleep deprivation.
In the study, the scientists examined eight people ages 30 to 60 with no sleep or cognitive problems. Randomly, they were asked to do one of these conditions: having a normal night’s sleep without taking any sleep aids, staying up all night, or sleeping after taking a sodium oxybate, which is a prescription medication for sleep disorders.
The scientists monitored them for 36 hours and took samples of the fluid in their brain and spinal cord every two hours. This was to determine the changes of the amyloid beta levels in regard to time of the day and tiredness.
The participants returned four to six months later to have the second condition. Four of them finished the three conditions. The researchers examined them under various conditions and identified the changes of the levels of amyloid beta.
The results showed that those participants with sleep deprivation had amyloid beta levels that were about 25 to 30 percent higher than those who had slept throughout the night. Meanwhile, those who took sleep medication had levels of amyloid beta no lower than those who had normal sleep.
The scientists discovered that when people stay awake throughout the night, there is a surmountable amount of generation of amyloid beta. Meanwhile, having slept with the help of medication could not provide any benefit.
This study could help scientists in determining how to reduce amyloid beta for people with sleep deprivation to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Mayo Clinic, to get a better sleep you have to do the following:
1. Have a sleep schedule. You have to go to bed and have recommended sleep for each night. For adults, you must sleep at least seven hours each day and children must sleep an average of eight to 14 hours depending on the children’s ages. You must get up at the same time each day.
2. Limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol when you are about to sleep. Don’t go to bed fully stuffed or hungry. Alcohol could make you sleepy but could disrupt your sleep during the night.
3. Have a restful (cool, quiet, and dark) environment. You may also take a shower before you sleep to make you sleepy.
4. Do not take long daytime naps. This could disrupt your nighttime sleep.
5. Do some physical activities because this could promote better sleep. Do not be active during sleeping hours.
6. If you cannot sleep, read a book or listen to a soothing music.