Researchers have suggested that people, who experience chronic sleep disturbance – either through their work, insomnia or other reasons – could face an earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. whether this is a cause or effect has been unknown. Now, researchers say individuals with chronic sleep disruptions could face earlier onset of Alzheimer’s.
The researchers, from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, have published the results of their pre-clinical study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
As a start, the team focused on longitudinal studies that showed individuals who reported chronic sleep problems often develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep disturbances can be caused by a number of factors, including work, stress, insomnia or other factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is associated with chronic conditions and diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.
“The big biological question that we tried to address in this study is whether sleep disturbance is a risk factor to develop Alzheimer’s or is it something that manifests with the disease,” says lead author Domenico Praticò, professor of pharmacology and microbiology/immunology in the university’s School of Medicine.
After a study researchers says Disruption in synaptic connection impairs brain
Praticò explains that elevated levels of phosphorylated tau can disrupt the synaptic connection of cells or the ability to transport nutrients or chemicals, or transmit electrical signals from cell to cell.
Tau protein is an important part of neuronal cell health, so these elevated levels cause a disturbance in normal function.
“Because of the tau’s abnormal phosphorylation,” Praticò says, “the sleep-deprived mice had a huge disruption of this synaptic connection. This disruption will eventually impair the brain’s ability for learning, forming new memory and other cognitive functions, and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.”
Since the sleep-deprived mice developed this Alzheimer’s brain pathology before the mice that had normal sleep, the team says sleep disturbances act as a trigger, accelerating these pathological processes and damaging the synaptic connection.
“We conclude from this study that chronic sleep disturbance is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” Praticò says. “But the good news is that sleep disturbances can be easily treated, which would hopefully reduce the Alzheimer’s risk.”
The team says correcting sleep disorders could be a “viable therapeutic strategy” to prevent or slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease in people at risk.
Source: Medical news today