Your erratic sleeping habits may be setting the stage for Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of sufficient deep sleep has been linked to multiple physical and psychological ailments, but scientists may be close to finding a definitive link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease.
Jeffrey Iliff, a brain scientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, insists that sleeping habits, particularly a lack of sufficient deep sleep, could be propelling your brain to Alzheimer’s disease. It is interesting to note that people already suffering from the chronic neurodegenerative disease have commonly complained about sleep disorders. Scientists are now keen to understand whether poor sleeping habits could be one of the culprits responsible for causing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, reported Popular Science.
According to Iliff, the brain needs deep sleep to conduct housekeeping functions. While we are in a deep sleep, the brain begins the process of clearing out toxins that are linked to Alzheimer’s. The process is conducted every day. Previous research has strongly indicated in animals, which have been sleep-deprived, that these toxins can build up over time and cause damage to the brain, reported AOL.
The toxins that can over time lead to Alzheimer’s have been collectively identified as amyloid plaques. These sticky substances are quite similar to the dental plaque. While these are commonly found in all brains, studies indicated that amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s developed much more quickly in the brains of sleep-deprived mice, reported NPR.
A similar study conducted in 2013, in which Iliff had participated, revealed that a lack of sufficient deep sleep sped up the development of these Alzheimer’s plaques. If considered in the reverse order, a cleansing process that scrubbed the plaque took place in the brain during deep sleep, at least in animals.
Explaining the process, Iliff said, “What happens is the fluid that’s normally on the outside of the brain, cerebrospinal fluid — it’s a clean, clear fluid — it actually begins to recirculate back into and through the brain along the outsides of blood vessels. This process, via what’s known as the glymphatic system, allows the brain to clear out toxins, including the toxins that form Alzheimer’s plaques. Changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage.”
Scientists from UC Berkeley recently discovered that these same proteins also cause poor sleep. Essentially, they found that there’s a vicious cycle of lack of sleep and increased toxins in the brain. Over time, this cycle of poor sleep resulted in a build-up of the plaque that further caused people to suffer from sleep deprivation, accelerating the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s had a common culprit in the form of the protein.
Fascinatingly, according to AlzInfo, scientists at the University of Toronto found that deep sleep seemed to blunt the effects of APOE-E4. This gene is one of the notorious culprits that triggers Alzheimer’s disease.
Iliff and his team are now conducting a new study and hope to get a better picture of the human brain as it detoxifies itself during deep sleep, reported News Channel 4. For the study, they need volunteers who would be able to sleep in the cramped tunnel of a loud magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
Does this mean people who get poor sleep are on their way to developing Alzheimer’s disease? The steadily degenerating disease is very complex, caution scientists. Just because you haven’t been able to get a good shut-eye for a few days doesn’t mean you have set the stage for contracting the brain disease. However, as multiple studies have conclusively proven, getting regular sleep is critical to keep the brain sharp and improve memory.
The scientists added that popping sleeping pills won’t help people achieve deep sleep, and they may be worsening the problem. Instead, exercise regularly to sleep better and keep Alzheimer’s at bay.[Photo by Simarik/Getty Images]