New research suggests sleep loss can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Evidence indicates that alterations in the brain caused by the disease may disrupt sleep, and poor sleep also promotes the mental changes.
Scientists who treat Alzheimer’s suggest that changes in sleep in response to treatments may serve as an indicator of whether the new treatments are working.
Sleep problems are common among people with full-blown Alzheimer’s. The new research suggests they may also be a sign of early-developing disease and symptoms to come.
Participants who had pre-clinical Alzheimer’s had a lower “sleep efficiency”than those without Alzheimer’s markers. People with early signs of Alzheimer’s spent the same amount of time in bed as non-affected volunteers, but did not sleep as long. They also napped more often.
Signs of Alzheimer’s became more common with deteriorating sleep quality, according to the research published in the journal JAMA Neurology. Doctors are trying to determine the exact relationship at play: does sleep loss drive Alzheimer’s, does Alzheimer’s lead to sleep loss, or is it a combination?
A separate study published recently also lends support to the theory that lack of sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity. Scientists found that sleeping just five hours a night for a working week and having unlimited access to food caused volunteers to gain an average of nearly two pounds. When people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Science.