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Disrupted Sleep Linked to Alzheimer's

By , Caring.com staff writer
Last updated: February 15, 2012
Woman trying to sleep

According to early data from a small study, interrupted sleep is associated with pre-clinical Alzheimer's.

Lead researcher Yo-El Ju, a physician and assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, worked with 100 older adults who were dementia-free at the start of the study. Participants wore a device to measure their sleep quality and filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits.

Researchers then looked at the spinal fluid and brain scans of those participants. About a quarter of the participants were dubbed to have pre-clinical Alzheimer's -- where a person has amyloid plaques but no symptoms of cognitive impairment -- based on those screenings.

The worse a participants' sleep -- more brief awakenings during the night, more time lying in bed but not sleeping -- the more likely he or she was to have pre-clinical Alzheimer's.

According to CBS News, Ju was quick to point out that her study proves association, not causation. Even if later studies show a causal link between sleep and Alzheimer's, researchers aren't sure which direction it will point: Does bad sleep cause Alzheimer's, or does pre-clinical Alzheimer's cause bad sleep?

Either way, sleeping well is good for your health.

"Everyone should prioritize their sleep," said Ju. "We don't value sleep as much as we should. Sleep is a very important function that allows the brain to rest."

Ju will present her findings at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in New Orleans in April.

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