Scientists find sleep symptom that may increase Alzheimer’s risk

Scientists in the United States have shed light on a sleep symptom that appears to be linked to having an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often confused, but there is a distinction. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that sees the brain atrophy (shrink) and brain cells die.

This, along with vascular dementia, makes up the majority of dementia cases.

Dementia impacts an individual’s ability to communicate and in its later stages requires constant care.

Eventually, cognitive damage caused by the brain shrinking or ‘atrophying’, leads to organ failure and death.

One in 14 people over the age of 65 develop it and the condition affects one in six people over 80.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s syndrome is the second leading cause of death in the UK.

Now, thanks to researchers in the US led by Dr Jennifer Hurley at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, a link between sleep and Alzheimer’s risk has been found.

Better sleep may cut dementia risk

Those who develop Alzheimer’s often experience sleep disturbances years before the condition truly takes hold, but until now it was not known whether poor sleep is a symptom or cause of the disease.

Now scientists appear to have solved the mystery.

‘Good sleep hygiene’ could tackle the disease and its symptoms, the study claims. The circadian clock or body clock, controls your brain’s ability to repair and remove damaged proteins linked to Alzheimer’s.

If initial findings prove right, it means disruption to sleep and therefore the brain’s nightly process of renewal, may encourage Alzheimer’s to develop.

“Circadian disruption is correlated with Alzheimer’s diagnosis and it has been suggested that sleep disruptions could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Hurley.

To keep your brain healthy, immune cells called microglia search for and destroy proteins that threaten to turn into Alzheimer’s plaque. On type of protein targeted by microglia is amyloid beta and a ‘hallmark’ of Alzheimer’s.

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