An alarming new study reveals losing even one night's sleep could significantly increase your risk ofAlzheimer's disease. Uppsala University researchers discovered healthy young men who lost a single night's sleep have very high levels of a biomarker for the medical condition called tau.
This biomarker is a protein that is commonly found in neurons. This type of protein can tangle and accumulate in the brains ofAlzheimer's disease patients. Tau can accumulate way before symptoms of the medical condition start to show. Some studies suggest sleep deprivation in older people can increase tau levels in the cerebral spinal fluid. Those who suffer from head trauma may also see an increase of tau levels in the blood.
"Many of us experience sleep deprivation at some point in our lives due to jet lag, pulling an all-nighter to complete a project, or because of shift work, working overnights or inconsistent hours," study author Jonathan Cedernaes, MD, PhD, from Uppsala University in Sweden, told a news portal. Adding, "Our exploratory study shows that even in young, healthy individuals, missing one night of sleep results in a slight increase in the level of tau in blood. This suggests that over time, similar types of sleep disruption could potentially have detrimental effects."
15 young men, who were around 22-years-old, participated in the study. Everyone in the group revealed they would get sleep between seven to nine hours every night regularly.
The study involved two phases. In the first phase, participants were carefully monitored in a sleep clinic for two days and nights. They also had to consume a specific meal and follow a strict schedule. In the second phase, participants were able to get a good night's sleep on the first night. However, they suffered from sleep deprivation on the second night. During sleep deprivation, researchers kept the lights on and participants played games, watched a movie or were just chatting.
The results showed sleep deprivation caused a 17 per cent increase in tau levels in their blood compared to an average 2 per cent increase in tau levels after sleeping well.
"It's important to note that while accumulation of tau in the brain is not good, in the context of sleep loss, we do not know what higher levels of tau in blood represent," Cedernaes told a news portal.
Adding, "When neurons are active, release of tau in the brain is increased. Higher levels in the blood may reflect that these tau proteins are being cleared from the brain or they may reflect an overall elevation of the concentration of tau levels in the brain."
However, the team notes that more research is needed as it was a small study and only investigated tau levels in healthy young men. Cedernaes further explained: Future studies are needed to investigate this further, as well as to determine how long these changes in tau last, and to determine whether changes in tau in blood reflects a mechanism by which recurrent exposure to restricted, disrupted or irregular sleep may increase the risk of dementia. Such studies could provide key insight into whether interventions targeting sleep should begin at an early age to reduce a person's risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease."
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Neurology.
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