According to a new small study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found experiencing even one night of sleeplessness may lead to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein found in the brain and associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid proteins clump to together to form amyloid plaques in people with this Alzheimer’s disease. While this is the first study to show how sleep may be an important factor in clearing beta-amyloid in the human brain, prior studies in mice have shown acute sleep deprivation to be a known cause of elevated beta-amyloid levels.
20 healthy individuals between the ages of 22 and 72 participated in this study. Researchers used PET (positron emission tomography) scans to understand the suspected link between beta-amyloid accumulation and sleep. PET scans were performed after a night of restful sleep and after a night where the participants remained awake for approximately 31 hours.
Researchers found an increase in beta-amyloid of approximately 5% in various brain regions (thalamus and hippocampus) after the sleep deprivation. These areas of the brain are especially vulnerable to damage during the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Researchers did not follow up to see if the increases in beta-amyloid seen in this study subsided after a night of rest. Additionally researchers found study participants whom experienced larger increases in beta-amyloid reported worse moods after the sleep deprivation.
It is estimated that beta-amyloid increases approximately 43% in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease when compared to healthy older adults.
Further studies are needed with a larger study population and to explore if the link between sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s risks are bidirectional, do increases in beta-amyloid cluster lead to sleep disturbances.
Supplements that may help a person get into a deeper more restful sleep include Melatonin, GABA, Magnesium, Valerian Root Extract, Passion Flower Extract, Hops, Scullcap, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Collagen Protein and L-Tryptophan.
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