Poor night sleep wipes memory
Can poor sleep wipe out memory? A new study has shown that just one night of poor sleep is enough to trigger a spike in a brain chemical linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Although scientists knew there was a link between dementia and lack of sleep, it was unclear whether the disease was driving insomnia or vice versa.
Now researchers at Stanford University and Washington Medical School have discovered that even a single night of disrupted sleep is enough to raise levels of amyloid beta - a substance, which can clump together and stop brain cells communicating with each other.
Although the levels returned to normal, scientists fear that continued sleep deprivation could allow an unhealthy build-up of brain plaque, which eventually kills off neurons and wipes memory.
They also found that after several nights of sleep disruption another chemical began to rise. Called tau, it is known to cause tangles in the brain and is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The research was published in the journal Brain.Previous studies have shown that poor sleep increases the risk of cognitive problems. People with sleep apnea, for example, a condition in which people repeatedly stop breathing at night, are at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment an average of 10 years earlier than people without the sleep disorder. Mild cognitive impairment is an early warning sign for Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers studied 17 healthy adults aged 35 to 65 with no sleep or cognitive problems. Each participant wore an activity monitor on the wrist for two weeks to measure how much time they slept at night. They were then monitored overnight in a sleep lab where they had their rest regularly disrupted by loud beeps.