Possible Link between Poor Sleep and Alzheimer’s

awake in bedThe possible association between sleep apnoea and Alzheimer’s disease has been discussed in a recently published study in the JAMA Neurology. The impact of these findings will have big implications in public health.

The researchers in this study worked with 70 volunteers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to explore the link between poor quality sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. The volunteers were both men and women between the ages of 53 and 91 years.

The study was conducted via use of questionnaires and the use of brain scans. The research team led by Professor Adam P. Spira sought to know the number of hours slept every night and if periods of wakefulness during the night were experienced. Another factor to be identified was whether there were other causes causing sleep disruptions in the night.

Subsequent to answering the questions, the researchers performed brain scans to check for the presence and build up of beta amyloid plaque in the brain. The buildup of the beta amyloid plaque is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and is seen in higher quantities in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients as compared to healthy and normal functioning brains in healthy individuals.

From the results of the study, Dr Spira and colleagues were able to identify a link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. They were however not sure whether poor sleep increases one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s or vice versa. The people with the least amount of sleep had the greatest buildup of the amyloid plaques in the brain.

Dr Spira said that on average, the amount of plaque buildup increased significantly with every hour of sleep lost. This was also evident in that every point they scored on the low sleep quality test worked towards an increase in plaque buildup noted.

As a control to test the results of the study, Dr Spira removed four of the volunteers who had developed Alzheimer’s disease during the period of the study. It was noted that even after removing these patients, a statistically significant increase in amyloid plaque buildup in those who reported having low quality or fewer hours of sleep was still reported.

With alzheimer’s disease being the most common cause of dementia, and approximately half of older adults having insomnia symptoms, Dr Spira says this presents a significant public health challenge. Further studies are thus needed to surely tell if poor sleep quality and inadequate sleep are causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, it will be necessary to determine if optimizing sleep can prevent or slow AD progression.


Image  Courtesy of photostock / freedigitalphotos.net

Somnowell Inventor - Visiting Professor Simon Ash FDS MSc MOrth BDS

Prof. Ash is the inventor of the highly successful SOMNOWELL Chrome device for snoring and sleep apnoea.

The Somnowell Chrome is made to exacting standards in the Somnowell laboratory under the supervision of Visiting Professor Simon Ash. Prof. Ash and his master technicians create each Somnowell Chrome device using their wealth of experience and expertise.

Prof. Ash works at the forefront of his profession. He is a Consultant and Specialist Orthodontist with over 30 years clinical experience, with a special interest in sleep related breathing disorders, TMJD, and bruxism. He currently works in Harley Street London and two private hospitals in London as part of a multi-disciplinary team managing snoring and sleep apnoea, and is Visiting Professor of Orthodontics at the BPP University.