Lack of deep sleep may be linked to Alzheimer's
Brain scientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland Jeffrey Iliff says our sleep habits could be setting the stage for dementia.
He told NPR the brain clears out toxins linked to Alzheimer's during sleep and research has shown among animals that don't get enough, those toxins can build up over time and cause damage to the brain.
See some of the most notable people diagnosed with Alzheimer's over the years:
Sleep disorders are very common among people with Alzheimer's disease and for years now scientists have been working to prove a correlation exists
As NPR explained:
The first finding emerged in 2009, when researchers at Washington University in St. Louis showed that the sticky amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's develop more quickly in the brains of sleep-deprived mice.
Then, in 2013, Iliff was a member of a team that discovered how a lack of sleep could be speeding the development of those Alzheimer's plaques: A remarkable cleansing process takes place in the brain during deep sleep, at least in animals.
What happens, Iliff says, is "the fluid that's normally on the outside of the brain, cerebrospinal fluid — it's a clean, clear fluid — it actually begins to recirculate back into and through the brain along the outsides of blood vessels."
This process, via what's known as the glymphatic system, allows the brain to clear out toxins, including the toxins that form Alzheimer's plaques, Iliff says.
Researchers in Oregon are preparing to do a study linking Alzheimer's with sleep deprivation in humans soon.