Trouble Sleeping? It May Be an Early Sign of Alzheimer’s

A habit of catnapping and a fidgety night’s sleep may be an early-warning symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the new research carried out on both mice and humans.

Irregular sleep patterns are very common in patients suffering from full-blown Alzheimer’s. Those interrupted circadian patterns are symptoms that create anxiety and confusion in patients while changing the lives of caregivers.

The Reduction in the vivid levels of sleep disorder, including waking up consistently at night and problems falling asleep is also common as people age.

A new research has indicated that people who are over 40 years and do not indicate any signs of mental impairment, are those with sleep-wake cycles that are faintly off-kilter and they have deposits of Amyloid protein in their brains. Those plaques are a feature of the disease (Alzheimer’s), and they form years before the symptoms of thinking problems or memory loss are obvious.


Study participants with sleep patterns that followed a vivid pattern of sleeping in the night and keeping awake in the daytime have considerable Amyloid protein clumps in their brains, which suggest that they were not expected to have Alzheimer’s disease.

In the research, Gene Therapy in Alzheimer Disease by JAMA neurology published March 26, 2018, does not provide answers to the question which states if a broken sleep rhythm actually causes the development of the disease or just a symptom of the Alzheimer’s disease.

If it is just a sign of the impending Alzheimer’s, it might still be helpful to tell. Presently, the earliest vivid signs of the Alzheimer’s disease are deposits of plaque which is only detected with an advanced brain imaging tool. If researchers and physicians had a behavioral pointer that is promptly noticed with the use of an activity monitor (wearable), they may likely identify several people who can enroll in some research studies or people who may gain from efforts to prevent dementia.

On the other hand, if a certain sleep-wake cycle with repeated nighttime awakening and daytime sleeping really helps Alzheimer’s achieve a foothold – that findings may be more valuable. Patients suffering from the disease with bad sleep rhythm can go for counseling in order to learn how to enhance the quality of nighttime sleep and prevent any development of dementia.

“I don’t want people to feel scared and think that if they wake up frequently at night, they actually have Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Erik S. Musiek, the study co-author in Washington University neurologist.

There are distinct changes in sleeping as people age. But as disturbed sleep patterns manifest themselves as a kind of short bursts of balancing daytime sleep and nighttime awakenings, participants didn’t report or notice these occurrences, Musiek said.

“These are delicate things, and they are detected easily in a large group of people,” he stated.

Trouble Sleeping? It May Be an Early Sign of Alzheimer's 1

The basic role that such disturbed sleep pattern plays in the early occurrence Alzheimer’s, whether it causes the disease or perhaps a sign of its presence, should become vivid as his team of researchers monitors study partakers into old age.

In the meantime, the research carried on mice indicated a tantalizing look at a solution, Musiek said. As soon as scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University bred mice whose usual circadian rhythms were totally knocked out by some blend of genetic engineering and drugs, plaques of amyloid accumulated swiftly in the brain’s hippocampus – an important structure in learning and memory.

The study, which was slated for publication in the Experimental Medicine Journal, suggests that abnormalities of the circadian rhythm increases the accumulation of amyloid plaque in the human brain and speed up the appearance of the disease with more clear symptoms of thinking and memory problems. Whether such dynamics is done in humans has not been revealed yet.

Also, in the research, Gene Therapy in Alzheimer Disease by JAMA Neurology, published March 26, 2018, 189 participants were 67 years old by the time they signed up in the study from 2010 to 2012. Every participant put on an activity monitor for about 7 to fourteen days. The wearable monitor recorded how long the participant slept and when, how often they wake up at night, and when they nap during the day.

The participants including women and men were all mentally healthy as at when they enrolled. They had no symptoms of cognitive impairment or any form of memory problems.

When the participants wore the activity device, 142 of them had a particular PET brain scan to check for any amyloid deposits.

26 participants had amyloid deposits, which show an early Alzheimer’s disease, however, the 116 participants did not. On 3 of 8 arcane degrees of circadian function, the participants with early onset of Alzheimer’s had higher scores than those without any peculiar amyloid build-up in their brains.

“A clear indication of the research is that therapies target the circadian system directly to regularize circadian timing instead of simply intensifying total sleep, may prevent Alzheimer’s,” the author wrote.

Musiek stated that he suggested several practices to Alzheimer’s patients worried about the likelihood of dementia, which is not different from the normal “sleep hygiene” habits that specialists of sleep-medicine authorize for their patients.

“You want to strengthen your sleep pattern at night,” he said. “I tell my patients to avoid making use of electronic gadgets at night, I tell them to sleep in a room without light and sleep without watching TV.”

Musiek also tells his Alzheimer’s patients to “get up in the morning, go out to get the morning light and stay active and positive.” Eating breakfast also helps to coordinate your clock,” he added.

Finally, Musiek said our night-owl and early-bird inclinations every now and then are rooted in our genes. We will do well by accommodating and not contest those differences.

“Most People find themselves in trouble whenever they force themselves into another mode,” he said. “We should pay attention often to how our bodies react, and learn to understand our patterns and keep night and day within that range.”

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