If there's one thing we could all do with a little more of in our lives, it's sleep. Between long hours at the office, after-work commitments, and other stressors that make getting shut-eye a challenge, sleep is the first thing we put on the back burner when push comes to shove. But when you miss out on sleep, your health takes a hit—from a slowed metabolism to hormonal imbalance. A new study published in Neurology finds that sleep deprivation can even increase your risk for Alzheimer's disease.
The study assessed 101 individuals averaging age 63 with normal cognitive functioning. In addition to completing well-validated sleep questionnaires, they had their spinal fluid analyzed "for the presence of indicators of the plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer's," writes The New York Times. Researchers found that poor sleep quality, sleep problems, and daytime sleepiness were associated with increased spinal fluid indicators of Alzheimer's disease, even after controlling for factors like age, family history of Alzheimer's, and the ApoE gene that increases one's risk for the disease.
"Not everyone with sleep problems is destined to develop Alzheimer's disease," says the study's senior author, Barbara B. Bendlin, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. But it is worth noting that a previous animal study found that sleep improves the brain's ability to clear toxic proteins that form these plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's. So while the exact reason for the association has yet to be confirmed and the study focuses on senior individuals, it is another reason to make a concerted effort to improve the quality of your sleep.
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