Getting enough sleep might help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The link to sleep hasn’t been entirely proved yet, but a new study suggests that amyloid beta, a marker for Alzheimer’s disease measured in spinal fluid, rises and falls with the sleep cycle.
Researchers at Washington University’s Sleep Medicine Center found that in healthy people, amyloid levels are lowest after six hours of sleep and highest after six hours of being awake. The investigators studied three groups of subjects: seniors age 60 and older who tested positive for the presence of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, seniors in the same age range who had no plaques, and a younger group of healthy individuals ranging in age from 18-60.
The research team monitored the participants’ hourly levels of amyloid beta in spinal fluid for 24 to 36 hours via spinal taps. They found that in the participants with existing amyloid beta plaques, levels were always pretty constant. In the other two groups, levels rose and fell with their sleep and wake cycles, but the highs and lows were much more marked in the younger participants.
A link between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s has been seen in animal studies.