Difficulty sleeping could cause memory problems

Troubled sleepers are more at risk of developing memory problems later in life

Sufferers of insomnia and people who have trouble sleeping are more likely to suffer from memory problems when they are older, a new study has revealed.

Researchers monitored the sleeping patterns of 100 participants and found a link between the amount and quality of sleep people get and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

‘Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a marker of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of people without memory problems,’ says study doctor Yo-El Ju, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Worryingly, 25 per cent of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques, which can appear years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease develop.

Results showed that people who were troubled sleepers – those who woke more than five times per hour – were more likely to have evidence of amyloid plaques, suggesting that the amount and quality of sleep are contributing factors in memory disorders.  

Dr Ju explains that the research is intriguing but not yet conclusive. ‘We need longer term studies to determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques, or whether brain changes in early Alzheimer’s disease lead to changes in sleep.’

But the study lays the foundation for investigating whether it may be possible to preventor slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by manipulating sleep.


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