Sleep problems and various sleep disorders like insomnia (chronic or occasional), sleep apnea, inability to rest at night, inability to follow a normal sleep cycle, inability to fall asleep on time, etc., are very well familiar to most of modern people. Our busy and stressful business life, numerous problems in our families and in our friend’s life, sedentary lifestyle, bad habits and unhealthy nutrition, taking certain medications, our ailments and health conditions – those are the most common causes of our chronic sleep disorders and sleep problems. Disturbed sleep can be named as a curse of our times, and millions of people around the world are affected by sleep disorders, to one or other extent.
There is a great deal of risks and dangers connected with chronic sleep disorders. In particular, inability to sleep and have enough of rest leads to low energy levels, chronic fatigue, stresses and psychological problems. In addition, as a recent study has shown, disturbed sleep can be associated with early signs of such a serious mental disorder as Alzheimer’s disease. This health condition reveals itself with severe memory loss and mental functions decline, but it is usually linked to aging. According to the findings of a group of scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, disturbed sleep, inability to sleep properly at night and spending most of night time awake can signal about brain plaque formation which is a sign of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
It was found out before that a chronic lack of sleep causes beta-amyloid marker build-up in the brains of animals. A group of specialists led by Yo-El Ju, MD, started their experiments in order to confirm or dis-confirm the idea that the same thing happens in human brain when we suffer from disturbed sleep. Ju and his colleagues invited about 100 volunteers to participate in their study, at that, 50 per cent of those participants had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were asked to use an actigraph for 14 days, which could help the scientists to measure sleep quality of the experiment participants. Also, they were asked to fill up special questionnaires and their sleep dairies. Finally, their level of amyloid beta-42 in cerebrospinal fluid was thoroughly monitored by the scientists in the lab.
It turned out that after just 2 weeks of experiment, 25 per cent of those who suffered from chronic sleep problems and disrupted sleep, started developing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. On average, the participants spent about 8 hours sleeping, but those who reported about sleep problems could sleep no more than 6 – 6.5 hours every night. Those of the participants who used to wake up 5 and more times a night, demonstrated the worst results and showed the signs of development of amyloid plaques in the brain. “Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline,” Ju commented on the work of his colleagues. The findings of American scientists were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in New Orleans earlier this spring.