If your new year resolution is to take better care of yourself, you should probably sleep well, because if you don't, you may end up having a long-term disease later. A new study recently revealed that people having poor sleep are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who conducted the study, explained: "As a wakeful brain churns away through the night, it produces more of the Alzheimer's protein amyloid beta than its waste-disposal system can handle. Levels of the protein rise, potentially setting off a sequence of changes to the brain that can end with dementia."
Researchers came to the conclusion after studying eight people aged 30 to 60 with no sleep or cognitive problems.
The study participants were assigned randomly to one of three scenarios: "Having a normal night's sleep without any sleep aids; staying up all night; or sleeping after treatment with sodium oxybate, a prescription medication for sleep disorders."
Each scenario occurred during 36 hours of monitoring. The researchers then took samples of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord every two hours to monitor how the levels of amyloid beta change with time of day and tiredness.
After four to six months, all eight participants to undertake a second scenario, and four people completed all three.
When they studied the same people under different conditions, it provided them with the statistical power to detect changes in amyloid beta levels.
They found that the amyloid beta levels were 25 to 30 percent higher in sleep-deprived people than in those who had slept the night through.
"This study is the clearest demonstration in humans that sleep disruption leads to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease through an amyloid beta mechanism," said senior author Randall Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology. "The study showed that it was due to overproduction of amyloid beta during sleep deprivation."
It is estimated that around 50 million to 70 million American adults struggle to get a good night's sleep. Some even have medical conditions such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
First study author Brendan Lucey said: "I don't want anyone to think that they are going to get Alzheimer's disease because they pulled an all-nighter in college."
Lucey added: "One night probably has no effect on your overall risk of Alzheimer's. We are really much more concerned about people with chronic sleep problems."
He believes that this information could help them to figure out how to reduce amyloid beta deposition over time in people whose sleep is chronically disrupted.
The study, published in the Annals of Neurology.