Sleep Disturbances Can Worsen Memory Loss
The chemical changes caused by waking up more often at night or having difficulty falling back asleep can asleep can exacerbate the memory decline associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.
Experts add that changes in overall sleep pattern may also be a factor. They point out that those with late-stage Alzheimer’s spend about 40 percent of the night awake and a large part of the daytime asleep. Although this is shift is most often seen later on, it sometimes is seen during earlier stages.
In a mice study, scientists at the University of California, Irvine found that disturbed circadian rhythm (sleep/wake pattern) affects memory problems and chemical changes in the brain.
Using both normal mice and mice with Alzheimer’s, the team altered light-dark patterns by shortening the dark period by eight hours every three days. This ‘jet lag’ effect led to reduced activity in both groups of mice, but resulted in significant learning impairments in the mice with Alzheimer’s.
The study suggests that to help slow memory loss, clinicians should not just promote good diet and exercise, but also advise good sleep habits.