ST LOUIS, MISSOURI — A new study shows even a single bad night’s sleep could raise levels of a protein that cause clogs in the brain and result in dementia.
The study, conducted by researchers at Washington University and Stanford University, sampled 17 healthy adults aged from 35 to 65 with no known sleep or cognitive problems. It was published in the journal Brain.
The results show amyloid levels increase by about 10 percent and tau levels would increase if the disruption to slow-wave sleep continues for a few nights in a row.
Amyloid beta and tau are two proteins that are naturally produced, but can cause clogs and tangles in the brain. The proteins are cleared away when the body enters slow-wave sleep.
Amyloid beta protein in excess of 10 percent could cause amyloid plaques that lead to dementia. The increase of tau could cause tangles in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
“When people are in a nice, deep sleep, they get a period of time when, with the normal clearance mechanisms working, the levels of amyloid decrease. If levels are increased over years, they are more likely to cause the clumps called plaques, which don't dissolve,” Dr. Yo-El Ju of Washington University in St. Louis and leader of the study told NBC News.
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and many more others are expected to develop the disease as the population ages. There is no cure nor treatments for the disease.
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