Sleep Disturbances May Increase the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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insomniaSelf-reported sleep disturbances may be related to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to the results of a study conducted at Uppsala University, in Sweden, which were recently published at the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal. The researchers analyzed data that included 40 years of self-reports, and concluded that older men who suffered sleep disorders were also more likely to develop the neurologic disease than ones who did not report any problems in sleeping.

The study included more than 1,000 people who were 50 years old at the time the study began in 1970, and were followed until 2010. The researchers demonstrated that, during the 40 years of reports sleep disturbances were related to Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the last years of study when the participants were older. In addition, the scientists explained that their research suggested that sleeping better may improve men’s brain health.

“We demonstrate that men with self-reported sleep disturbances run a 1.5-fold higher risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those without reports of sleep disturbances during a 40-year follow-up period,” explained the leader of the study, Christian Benedict, who is a sleep researcher at the Uppsala University. “The later the self-reported sleep disturbance was found the higher the risk was for developing Alzheimer’s disease. These findings suggest that strategies aimed at improving sleep quality in late life may help reduce the risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

Benedict also believes that the results of the study may lead to understanding what kind of behaviors improve brain health and help avoid the disease. “Importantly, there are several lifestyle factors, such as exercise, that can influence your brain’s health. Thus, it must be borne in mind that a multifaceted lifestyle approach comprising good sleep habits is essential for maintaining brain health as you age,” added Benedict, who authored a previous study that revealed the brain damages of having a single night of total sleep deprivation in the increase of blood concentration on the brain molecules.

It was already known that the sleep influences brain function, and several researchers have dedicated their studies to better understanding it. A new Open Access study suggested that the use of benzodiazepines, a type of drug for treating anxiety and insomnia, may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, especially among long-term users.

In addition, an Assistant Professor at Oregon Health & Science University presented his research at a TEDMED conference recently, revealing that sleeping properly may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, since the brain cleans its system during the sleep from the waste it produces. Jeff Iliff was able to unveil the brain cleansing system, which works similarly to the lymphatic system.