Experts in the natural health sector have said that losing just one night of sleep can lead to an immediate increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This is the conclusion arrived at in a new study by researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The amyloid beta denotes peptides of 36–43 amino acids that are crucially involved in Alzheimer’s disease as the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. However, the researchers said the increase in be-ta-amyloid could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s, which accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of dementia cases, is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. According to ‘Sleep Review,’ the journal for sleep specialists, the new study demonstrates that sleep may play an important role in human beta-amyloid clearance.
Previous studies similarly showed that lack of sleep is bad for health. Regular poor sleep puts affected persons at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes– and it shortens life expectancy.
It is estimated that one in three suffers from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed. However, the new study shows that the beta-amyloid is a metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid clumps together to form amyloid plaques, negatively impacting communication between neurons.
The report stated: “In Alzheimer’s disease, betaamyloid is estimated to increase about 43 per cent in affected individuals relative to healthy older adults. “It is unknown whether the increase in beta-amyloid in the study participants would subside after a night of rest.” Similarly, the researchers also found that study participants with larger increases in beta-amyloid reported worse mood after sleep deprivation.
The study was led by Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, PhD, and Nora D. Volkow, MD, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). To understand the possible link between betaamyloid accumulation and sleep, the researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of 20 healthy subjects, aged 22 to 72, after a night of rested sleep and after sleep deprivation (being awake for about 31 hours).
“They found beta-amyloid increases of about five per cent after losing a night of sleep in brain regions including the thalamus and hippocampus regions especially vulnerable to damage in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” the report stated.”