February 15, 2012

Trouble Sleeping? It Could Affect Your Memory

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- From stress to insomnia to anxiety, whatever the cause may be, new research shows that lack of sleep at night could affect memory later in life.

“Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a hallmark marker of Alzheimer´s disease, in the brains of people without memory problems. Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline,” the study author at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and member of the American Academy of Neurology, Yo-El Ju, M.D., was quoted as saying.

The study involved 100 people between the ages of 45 and 80 who had no signs of dementia. Half of the participants had a family history of Alzheimer´s disease. In order to study their sleep patterns, a device was placed on them for two weeks. Researchers also analyzed questionnaires and sleep diaries.

Research found that the average time spent in bed during the study was 8.5 hours and average actual sleep time was 6.5 hours. Also, 25 percent of participants experienced evidence of amyloid plaques that can appear years before symptoms of Alzheimer´s disease starts.

Those who woke up more than five times per hour were more likely to have amyloid plaque compared to participants who did not wake up as often. Participants who spent less than 85 percent of time in bed sleeping were more likely to have markers than those who spent more than 85 percent of time in bed sleeping.

“The association between disrupted sleep and amyloid plaques is intriguing, but the information from this study can not determine a cause-effect relationship or the direction of this relationship. We need longer-term studies, following individuals´ sleep over years, to determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques, or whether brain changes in early Alzheimer´s disease lead to changes in sleep,” Yo-El Ju was quoted as saying.

Researchers believe the study lays the foundation for investigating sleep manipulation as a strategy for slowing Alzheimer´s disease.

Source: American Academy of Neurology, February 2012