Current research suggests that there is a link between the lack of sleep and the subsequent development of Alzheimer. Multiple articles and studies have been published exploring this subject and I have provided some links to them below.
A study conducted in April 2018 by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that losing only one night of sleep leads to an increase in beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease found in the brain. The beta-amyloid proteins coagulate forming amyloid plaques in the brain- these plaques are typical traits of Alzheimer. Beta-amyloid is a “metabolic waste product present in the fluid between brain cells”.
The formation of beta-amyloid plaques is believed to directly impair neurone communication and the plaques are considered neurotoxic.
A further study that also explores the link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer was conducted by the Centre for Translational Neuromedicine. This study discovered that the glymphatic clearance pathway, which clears waste for the central nervous system, is ten time more active whilst we are asleep compared to when we are awake. The glymphatic system clears away beta-amyloid plaques and without sufficient sleep the system is unable to clean.
It was also found in a study at the University of Rochester Medical School that whilst mice slept, cells in the brain shrank, facilitating a greater volume of fluid to pass between the cells, aiding the removal of the buildup of neurotoxic molecules.
Furthermore, scientists at the University of Toronto found that adequate sleep led to the inhibition of the APOE-E4 gene- a gene typically associated with the development of late-onset Alzheimer. The study also showed that participants who carried the APOE-E4 gene and slept well had better retention of memories and thinking skills.
The results produced by these studies provides convincing evidence for the link between sleep deprivation and the development of Alzheimer- however further studies are needed for this relationship to be understood completely.
1. NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Lack of sleep may be linked to risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease: Preliminary study shows increased levels of beta-amyloid.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2018. .
2. https://www.alzheimers.net/2013-10-29/lack-of-sleep-may-cause-alzheimers/ [Accessed 30/04/2018]
3. https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/poor-sleep-may-be-linked-to-alzheimers-disease/ [Accessed 30/04/2018]