Lack of sleep linked to Alzheimer's
Studies using mice suggest that lack of sleep could increase the development of plaques in the brain, accelerating the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is thought that the build up of toxic plaques in the brain causes Alzheimer’s disease by ‘clogging up’ information pathways. A protein called beta-amyloid is known to cause these plaques to form.
A team of scientists looked at the effect of sleep on the levels of beta-amyloid in mice and humans. When mice were deprived of sleep, the levels of beta-amyloid increased by one quarter, and the plaque levels also increased. Further tests involving the administration of an insomnia drug showed that excess sleep can result in a reduction in the levels of beta-amyloid by over three quarters. Tests on 10 healthy men showed reduced levels of beta-amyloid in the cerebrospinal fluid at night, suggesting that the same mechanism is present in humans.