Sleep Related Brain Activity & Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.  Usually, it occurs in people over age 65, however there are cases of younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Once diagnosed, a person suffering from Alzheimer’s typically lives 4-8 years after the diagnosis.  If they are in good health, it can be up to 20 years. 

Because this is a progressive condition, memory loss can be mild in the early stages and then worsens over time.  Alzheimer’s is not part of the normal aging process and is the most common cause of dementia (between 60-80% of cases).  Once a person gets into the late stages, this is where the cognitive abilities have declined to a point that interferes with the normal functions of everyday life.

This article describes how sleep-related brain activity can prevent Alzheimer’s by clearing toxic proteins from the brain. The onset of Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be driven by the buildup of the toxins.  The brain is supposed to recover and reset overnight, clearing out harmful toxins, which is why sleep is so important.  In this study there were 118 subjects studied, where researchers measured brain activity, cerebrospinal fluid flow and behavioral data.

Other similar studies have shown that even losing a few nights of sleep is harmful to people in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.  This sleep deprivation leads to increased metabolic waste, limiting communication between neurons in the brain.

The strength of the connection between brain activity and cerebrospinal fluid flow was weaker in individuals who had already developed Alzheimer’s disease or were at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. These findings have the potential to indicate early warning signs to physicians and can provide better evaluations of patients/elevated level of patient care.

More studies are needed to fully understand global brain activity and associated neurodegenerative diseases, noting that sleep disorders can be both a trigger of, and a result, of Alzheimer’s.

Please click here to read the full article.