Less deep sleep linked to higher Alzheimer's proteins in brain
Poor sleep is definitely bad for the brain.
ST. LOUIS — A new study has linked poor quality sleep to higher levels of a brain protein believed to cause Alzheimer's.
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine studied the link between tau and sleep levels by recruiting 119 people over 60, most of whom were cognitively healthy.
According to the study published in Science Translational Medicine, subjects' sleep patterns were monitored for a week using portable EEG monitors and wristwatch-like sensors.
Tau and amyloid beta levels were also measured using either PET brain scans or spinal fluid sampling.
The results show that those who had fewer hours of slow-wave sleep had higher volumes of the tau protein in their brain.
Slow-wave sleep is the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement sleep. This stage of the sleep cycle is also thought to be important for memory consolidation.
According to study author Brendan Lucey, those who showed increased tau pathology slept more at night and napped during the day, but were not getting good quality sleep.
While the findings are significant, the study is unclear on whether poor quality sleep is a cause or consequence of pathological changes in the brain.
Researchers suggest, however, that sleep disruptions may be an effective tool for doctors to spot patients in the earliest stages of cognitive decline.
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