A lack of sleep promotes the accumulation of amyloid plaques, a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease according to a recently published study.
Indeed, sleep-deprived people show an immediate and significant increase in amyloid plaques in the brain, one of the biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Researchers at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the United States have treated 20 healthy people with no history of brain disorders for two nights in the laboratory, one of which is white. In the morning after these two nights, participants underwent brain scans to assess their beta amyloid levels.
The researchers found that sleep deprivation was associated with a significant increase in beta amyloid levels in the brain compared to a good night’s sleep.
In addition, amyloid beta increases have been observed in brain regions important for memory and thought. These included the hippocampus, which is related to memory, and the thalamus, which is an important center for relaying sensory information to the brain.
Scientists suspect that every time a neuron dies, it contributes to the production of beta amyloid in the brain. “When people do not sleep, their neurons die, which can lead to an accumulation of beta amyloid,” said Ehsan Shokri-Kojori, author of the study.
“But it is also possible that sleep promotes the elimination of brain waste, including amyloid beta,” say the researchers in the study. “Indeed, during sleep, neurons shrink in size, creating a space between cells that allows debris to be more easily removed from the brain.”
New studies are needed to assess the irreversible nature of this accumulation and whether lack of sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.