MONDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) — Older people who get less sleep or poor sleep may have more of the plaque that is suggestive of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, a new study indicates.
“There is a link between sleep and the amount of [beta] amyloid in the brain,” said lead researcher Adam Spira, an assistant professor in the department of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The unanswered question is whether poor sleep is a result of plaque build-up or if poor sleep leads to more plaque and eventually Alzheimer’s disease. Also, although the study showed an association between the two, it did not prove any cause-and-effect links.
“We can’t say that sleep disturbance preceded the amyloid deposits,” Spira said. “One possibility is that changes in the brain are leading to disturbed sleep.”
It is known that people with Alzheimer’s disease have disturbed sleep, Spira said. “But that we found this in people without Alzheimer’s disease leads us to think that there might be a connection between sleep disturbance and developing amyloid plaque and Alzheimer’s disease, but we can’t tell that yet,” he said.
Still, Spira suggested it might be possible that improving sleep could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. “We live in a sleep-deprived society,” he said. “It may be that changing sleep habits has significant implications for mental health and specifically the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, but that remains to be seen.”