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Lack of Sleep May Promote Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Extensive research over the past twenty years has repeatedly shown that Alzheimer’s dementia is largely the result of a variety of lifestyle factors that promote the development of amyloid plaques and tau proteins in the brain that usher the onset of this dreaded disease. Now scientists have found that poor sleep patterns, as experienced by millions of aging adults, may be a powerful trigger for formation of these markers.

Lack of Restful Sleep Promotes Brain Tangle Formation and Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Dementia

Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, reporting the results of their work in the journal, Neurobiology of Aging, have determined that people who experience chronic sleep disturbance, either through their work, insomnia or other reasons, could face an earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Prior research bodies have concluded that chronic sleep problems can inflame a number of health problems, ranging from cardiovascular disease and depression to cancer and diabetes.

Lead study author, Dr. Domenico Pratico commented, “The big biological question that we tried to address in this study is whether sleep disturbance is a risk factor to develop Alzheimer’s or is it something that manifests with the disease.” Using a transgenic mouse model known to simulate human neurological pathologies, the team examined the effects of sleep deprivation to determine the development of the two hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s disease: amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles.

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Ensure 7 to 9 Hours of Restful and Undisturbed Sleep Every Night to Fight Chronic Diseases

Starting their study when the mice were 6 months old, the human equivalent of a 40-year-old, the researchers began an 8-week study. As one group of mice was exposed to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, another group was exposed to 20 hours of light and 4 hours of darkness, which significantly reduced their sleep time. At the end of the test period, the scientists did not detect any outward behavioral signs of Alzheimer’s disease. When they conducted memory tests in the mice however, the group with reduced sleep time demonstrated significant impairment in their working and retention memory, as well as the ability to learn new tasks.

Dr. Pratico noted, “We did observe that the sleep disturbance group had a significant increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed the tangles inside the brain’s neuronal cells.” Tau protein is an important part of neuronal cell health, so these elevated levels cause a disturbance in normal function. This disruption will eventually impair the brain’s ability for learning, forming new memory and other cognitive functions, and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

The authors concluded, “that chronic sleep disturbance is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease… but the good news is that sleep disturbances can be easily treated, which would hopefully reduce the Alzheimer’s risk.” It has been well documented that we require 7 to 9 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep in a fully darkened room each and every night to promote efficient metabolic housekeeping and ward off a number of chronic disease conditions including Alzheimer’s dementia.


John Phillip is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and diet, health and nutrition researcher and author with a passion for understanding weight loss challenges and encouraging health modification through natural diet, lifestyle and targeted supplementation. John’s passion is to research and write about the cutting edge alternative health technologies that affect our lives. Discover the latest alternative health news concerning diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and weight loss at My Optimal Health Resource


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