A study published in July 2021 showed that a lack of sleep can lead to Alzheimer’s faster. Essentially this was a study of 4425 cognitively unimpaired participants. It showed that people who sleep shorter than 6 hours develop increased β-amyloid in the brain. This was tested with the use of a florbetapir PET scan uptake, which is a marker for Alzheimer’s disease. People sleeping 7 to 8 hours or even 9 hours do not develop β-amyloid in the brain. But sleep deprivation below 6 hours of sleep per night clearly showed early Alzheimer’s disease development using the PET scanner technology.
Another study to show that a lack of sleep can lead to Alzheimer’s faster
On August 31, 2021 CNN reported about a study that was published in the journal JAMA Neurology on August 31. Important functions of the brain are thinking, reasoning, learning, problem-solving, remembering, paying attention and decision-making. When you lose any of these functions, Alzheimer’s disease is starting. When the brain experiences aging and β-amyloid protein deposits develop, the brain function starts to deteriorate. Researchers can measure this with psychometric tests.
More details of the study
This study involved 4,417 participants with an average age of 71.3 years of mostly Caucasian descent. Sleeping 7 to 9 hours was considered to be normal. There were some peculiar findings:
- Being a woman and having had more years of education was associated with longer than average sleep
- Self-reported caffeine intake did not change sleep duration
- Alcohol intake prolonged sleep duration
- Black or African American participants had a shorter sleep duration of 37.9 minutes
- Asian participants slept 27.3 minutes less than white participants
- Latino or Hispanic White participants had 15 minutes less sleep duration
Blood test for β-amyloid
The β-amyloid deposits from the brain are leaking into the blood and researchers can measure them with a mass spectrometry test. This is what researchers did in the study described by CNN. They showed that participants getting less sleep than 6 hours pr night were at a significantly higher risk to have higher β-amyloid blood levels. Other studies showed that this correlates with higher β-amyloid deposits in the brain. In essence, this means that these sleep-deprived participants were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Improvement of sleep patterns
The researchers could also show that any measure that increases sleep duration lowers the β-amyloid blood levels and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Many patients with sleep deprivation have other conditions like obesity and depression. When researchers treated these conditions adequately, sleep duration improved and the risk for Alzheimer’s disease went down. Regular exercise can help you to sleep better, which is explained in detail here.
Telomeres get shortened with sleep deprivation
Other research showed that sleep deprivation leads to shorter telomeres, the caps on the end of the chromosomes. When telomeres are shorter, we are more prone to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. People with shorter telomeres also do not live as long as controls who get 7 hours of more sleep at night.
I discussed two studies that showed how decreased sleep duration below 6 hours per night leads to increased β-amyloid deposits in the brain. This in turn has a close association with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers demonstrated that any measures that increase sleep duration above 6 hours prevents Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep deprivation leads to shorter telomeres, which causes more cardiovascular disease and a shorter life expectancy.