The scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in a recent study, discovered a connection between sleep deprivation and brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease patients. According to them, sleeplessness fastens the spread of the tau protein, the precursor of brain damage and one of the compounds linked to the installment and evolution of dementia.
To reach these conclusions, the scientists measured the level of tau in the brains of mice subjects with either regular sleep hours or disrupted sleep. The mice which rested enough during the night presented average levels of tau, while those lab animals that were active at nights presented a higher level of tau at night and twice as much during the day.
The same pattern has been observed in humans, but only during a limited clinical trial in which eight individuals participated. Those who spent their night awake presented levels of tau by 50 percent higher than the participants who had a long enough night sleep.
Alzheimer’s Disease Patients Present Increased Brain Damage Due to Sleep Deprivation
As the tau levels increase due to sleeplessness, the scientists concluded that sleep deprivation causes increased brain damage in Alzheimer’s Disease patients. Also, it can lead to dementia in case the condition is not yet installed.
Besides, the scientists also revealed that sleep deprivation is involved in the increased release of synuclein, one of the primary signs of Parkinson’s Disease. Frequently, patients with Parkinson’s disease experience sleep disorders, pretty much like those individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Getting a good night’s sleep is something we should all try to do. Our brains need time to recover from the stresses of the day. We don’t know yet whether getting adequate sleep as people age will protect against Alzheimer’s disease. But it can’t hurt, and this and other data suggest that it may even help delay and slow down the disease process if it has begun,” explained David Holtzman from the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the leading author of the study published in the journal Science.