Poor Sleep Linked to Brain Changes Associated with Alzheimer's Disease

Dr. Barbara Bendlin

A study led by Barbara Bendlin, PhD, associate professor, Geriatrics and Gerontology, concluded that poor sleep may be an indication of increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 

Researchers studied 101 cognitively normal people between the ages of 57 and 69 who were recruited from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, a group of volunteers who have a parental history of Alzheimer's disease. 

Subjects completed well-validated sleep questionnaires, and researchers analyzed samples of their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for levels of Alzheimer's disease hallmarks, including biomarkers of amyloid metabolism and plaques and tau pathology and markers of inflammation and neuronal injury. 

After controlling for age, family history of Alzheimer's disease and other risk factors, researchers found that poor sleep quality, sleep problems, and daytime sleepiness were associated with increased levels of Alzheimer's disease biomarkers in CSF samples. 

“If it turns out to be the case that an intervention which improves sleep also results in less amyloid being deposited in the brain, that would provide strong support for implementing interventions before people start to show cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Bendlin.