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Study: Lack of sleep boosts risk of Alzheimer’s disease

CHICAGO – A sleepless night causes levels of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta to rise faster than the brain’s waste-disposal system can remove it, a study of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found.

Persistent high levels of the protein can set off a cascade of brain changes leading to dementia.

Researchers at the university studied eight people aged 30 to 60 with no sleep or cognitive problems. The participants were assigned randomly to one of three scenarios: having a normal night’s sleep without any sleep aids; staying up all night; or sleeping after treatment with sodium oxybate, a prescription medication for sleep disorders.

Each scenario occurred during 36 hours of monitoring, starting in the morning and continuing through the afternoon of the following day. The researchers took samples of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord every two hours to monitor how amyloid beta levels change with time of day and tiredness.

All eight participants returned four to six months later to undertake a second scenario, and four people completed all three.

Amyloid beta levels in sleep-deprived people were 25 to 30 percent higher than in those who had slept the night through. After a sleepless night, amyloid beta levels were on par with the levels seen in people genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s at a young age. (Xinhua)

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