Sleep disturbances and neurodegeneration

11 Sep

It is well established that dementia is often accompanied by sleep disturbances. For example, the phenomenon of sundowning in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

An article, published in Nature, the world’s most prestigious science journal, reported that levels of soluble amyloid-β in mice fluctuate with sleep cycles. There is evidence that soluble amyloid beta peptide  is associated with the neurodegenerative changes of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the article:

“Sleeping difficulties and neurodegeneration seem to reinforce one another in a vicious cycle. “Abnormal sleep in mid-life might cause protein aggregation that starts the disease off,” Holtzman says, “and the damage that causes may further disrupt sleep.

But could that dynamic be reversed? If disrupted sleep can predispose people to neurodegeneration, then might healthy sleeping patterns help protect the brain against it? Holtzman’s group is testing this idea — essentially, whether it is possible to turn the vicious cycle virtuous. “A lot of early data suggest that modifying sleep could actually delay the onset of disease,” he says. “I think that’s where the field should be going now, but it’s not trivial translating all the animal studies directly into people.”

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