Poor sleep increases the levels of a particular protein tied to Alzheimer's disease, a new study shows.
For the study, researchers examined 26 middle-aged men who reported normal sleeping habits. Half the participants were randomly assigned to the sleeping group and the rest were told to stay awake throughout the night.
The researchers inserted a catheter into the spines of all the participants so that the team could measure the levels of amyloid-beta protein before and after the night session. High levels of amyloid-beta have been identified as a potential risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers found that men in the sleeping group had amyloid-beta levels that were 6 percent lower than the levels measured at the baseline. The protein levels in the men who stayed awake remained the same. The team also found that people who reported higher quality of sleep had greater reductions in their amyloid-beta levels.
"We think normal healthy sleep helps reduce the amount of [amyloid] beta in the brain and if your sleep is disturbed this decrease is prevented," said senior author of the study Dr. Jurgen Claassen, from Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, reports Reuters Health.
"We think the beta is cleared from the brain or less produced during sleep," Dr. Claassen said. "We did a complete night of sleep deprivation which is kind of extreme, but it's similar to a week of partial sleep deprivation. Based on this and other studies, it would be good to have people look at their sleep behaviors, but not be frightened themselves if they miss a good night's sleep."
Some researchers noted that the findings of this study do not report anything about the development of Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia. They said that more research is required to understand the link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer's disease.
The study, 'Effect of 1 Night of Total Sleep Deprivation on Cerebrospinal Fluid β-Amyloid 42 in Healthy Middle-Aged Men,' was published in JAMA Neurology.