Sleep problems could trigger onset of Alzheimer's
Chronic sleep problems could help speed up the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a team of researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia.
For the study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers used mice with the DNA from humans. These mice began developing learning and memory issues within a year, which is equivalent to a 50-or 60-year old human. Researchers started their eight-week study when the mice were six months old, or 40 in human year equivalent.
When the mice were 14 to 15 months old, they had amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain, hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s.
One group of mice was exposed to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Another group was exposed to 20 hours of light and four hours of darkness, which reduced their sleep time. When they conducted memory tests in the mice, they found that the group with reduced sleep showed significant impairment in memory and learning abilities.
When researchers examined the brains of both groups, they did not see a difference in amyloid plaques, but did find that the sleep-deprived mice had an increase in the amount of tau protein tangles, which disrupts the ability of cells to transport nutrients, chemicals and signals.
The researchers said sleep deprivation can act as a trigger to accelerate these brain changes.