A night without sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s

A night without sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s

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One study reveals that it increases the amount of beta-amyloid, the protein that forms plaques in the brain.

Just one night of lost sleep can make the  brain fill with the protein that has long been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the beta-amyloid protein , according to a new study published in the magazine. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The work has found that people who are deprived of sleep during a single night experience an immediate and significant increase in beta amyloid, the substance that clumps between neurons to form plaques that hamper the brain’s ability to function.

“Certainly, we showed that even a night of  sleep deprivation can increase the levels of these harmful amyloid beta compounds, which 
is a very logical assumption and is consistent with previous research ,” said Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, leader of the work. 

Previous studies in humans and mice have found possible links between lack of sleep and an accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain. However, many of the studies in humans have been based on self-reports on sleep quality. 

Hence, this team of experts decided to conduct an experiment that would more accurately test the effect of sleep deprivation on amyloid beta levels in humans . With the participation of 20 healthy people with no history of brain disorders, they were asked to spend two nights in the laboratory; one in which they were allowed to rest well at night and the other in which they could not  sleep at all.

On the morning after each of the nights, the participants underwent brain scans to evaluate their amyloid beta levels.

 

The researchers found that sleep deprivation was associated with a significant increase in beta amyloid in the brain (in 19 of the 20 subjects), compared to a good night’s sleep. In addition, increases in beta amyloid were observed in regions of the brain important for memory and thinking, such as the  hippocampus (related to memory) and the thalamus (an important center for transmitting sensory information to the brain).

Experts suspect that every time a neuron is activated, it contributes to the production of amyloid beta in the brain. When not sleeping, the neurons continue working, which can lead to an accumulation of beta amyloid. It is also possible that sleep will help the elimination of brain waste products, which include beta amyloid, the researchers said.

During sleep,  neurons diminish in size, creating space between cells that allows waste products to be more easily eliminated from the brain. If we do not sleep, the consequence is clear.

However, more studies are needed to directly link the lack of sleep with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease , the authors clarify, since it is not known if a good night’s sleep can annihilate the accumulation of beta amyloid from a brief episode of Alzheimer’s disease. insomnia, for example.

A future experiment could involve participants experiencing a night of sleep deprivation followed by a night of deep sleep, with brain scans detailing whether a good dream can restore brain health.

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