Getting less sleep could raise your Alzheimer’s risk

couple sleeping together bed rest
Sleep is when your body flushes out potentially harmful chemicals.
Credit: ThinkStock

Burning the midnight oil could be costing you more than your concentration the next day. A new study out of the Netherlands shows that sleep may be key to flushing your body of a protein that’s known to be key in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at Radboud University Medical Center tested the spinal fluid of 26 healthy men with normal sleeping patterns before and after either a regular night’s sleep or staying awake for 24 hours. The rested men showed a 6 percent lower concentration of amyloid beta proteins, which form the neural plaque long thought to play an important role in the degenerative brain condition. The sleepless study participants showed no change in their levels of amyloid beta.

“We think the beta is cleared from the brain or less produced during sleep,” head researcher Dr. Jurgen Claassen said. If you keep deferring your sleep debt — the researchers noted that partially sleepless nights for a week add up to an all-nighter — the protein could build up and raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

And there’s more bad news for the sleep deprived: Not just any sleep will do. Sleepers who got better quality Zs decreased their amyloid-beta levels by more than their restless peers, according to the study.


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