The good news is that no one has proven a direct connection between poor sleep, or sleep deprivation from any cause, and the onset of Alzheimer’s, a debilitating, memory-depleting disease usually associated with aging.
The not-so-good news is that scientists have discerned a connection between slowed-down activity during poor sleep and an associated lessening of the body’s natural ability to discharge protein waste. This observation means that poor sleep may be a marker along the path to Alzheimer’s, which is characterized by the presence of amyloid protein plaques and tangles of tau protein fibers in the brain.
While these amyloid protein plaques and tangles of tau protein fibers have, in the past at least, only been identified during autopsies, modern medicine now uses imaging techniques to measure beta-amyloid buildup in the brains of living subjects, which may greatly advance our understating of the early stages of the disease.
Things get a bit iffier from here because the main study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, relied on anecdotal sleep testimony from 70 adults with an average age of 76. However, when examining those patients who reported trouble sleeping, the researchers did find an above-normal build-up of beta-amyloid protein matter.
Further research is obviously called for, and indeed ongoing scientific studies continue into the causes of Alzheimer’s, including any connection with sleep habits, sleep deprivation and the disease itself.
In the meantime, no matter what your age, this study is just another excellent reason to take care of any sleeping problem you may be experiencing. If you show any of the classic symptoms of poor sleep — generally, fatigue in the daytime and other physical and mental cues during waking hours — you need to seek professional help. Usually, most sleep problems can be quickly identified and treated swiftly and easily for years, or even a lifetime, of relief.
You owe it to yourself to seek professional help as soon as possible if you feel your sleep is not what it should be, and/or if your physical and mental functioning in the daytime seems compromised by lack of solid sleep. Make the call today.