Suffering from a sleep disorder could be an early indicator of
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine
carried out tests on mice and discovered the normal sleep-wake
cycle in bed is significantly
disrupted when the first signs of Alzheimer's plaques appear in the
The study - which is going to be published in Science
Translational Medicine - builds on a previous investigation carried
out in 2009 that linked sleep problems and Alzheimer's for the
According to the latest research, as Alzheimer's plaques form in
the brains of mice, their average sleep times dropped to 30 minutes
per hour of daylight, which represents a ten-minute reduction on
the average for the nocturnal animals.
Dr David Holtzman, head of Washington University's department of
neurology and senior author of the investigation, said that in the
future the presence of sleeping problems may be "a rapid indicator
of whether the new treatments are succeeding".
"If sleep abnormalities begin this early in the course of human
Alzheimer's disease, those changes could provide us with an easily
detectable sign of pathology," Dr Holtzman added.
The expert admitted the researchers are still not completely aware
of what effect sleep problems have on the human brain, especially
in terms of memory or cognitive issues. This means they have yet to
determine if reduced overall sleeping patterns or trouble staying
asleep should be causing most concern.
It comes after another study found that sleep can improve the
memory of Parkinson's sufferers, as individuals performed markedly
better on a test of working memory after a good night's rest.
The findings highlight the importance of introducing effective
sleep disorder treatments for anyone who has Parkinson's.
Postdoctoral fellow Michael Scullin, who is the first author on
the paper, said: "It was known already that sleep is beneficial for
memory, but ... we've been able to analyse what aspects of sleep
are required for the improvements in working memory
Posted by Elizabeth Mewes