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Study Suggests Link Between Sleep Deprivation, Alzheimer's Risk
Date:9/28/2011

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A new study shows that levels of amyloid beta, a byproduct of brain activity that is considered a marker for Alzheimer's disease, normally rise during the day and decrease at night.

While the finding is preliminary, it could suggest a possible link between sleep deprivation and people's risk for developing the brain-robbing disease, researchers say.

"We've known for some time that significant sleep deprivation has negative effects on cognitive [brain] function comparable to that of alcohol intoxication," Dr. Stephen Duntley, professor of neurology and director of Washington University's Sleep Medicine Center, said in a university news release. "But it's recently become apparent that prolonged sleep disruption and deprivation can actually play an important role in pathological processes that underlie diseases. This connection to Alzheimer's disease isn't confirmed yet in humans, but it could be very important."

The findings were released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of Archives of Neurology.

According to the researchers, levels of the amyloid beta protein do seem to ebb and flow.

"In healthy people, levels of amyloid beta drop to their lowest point about six hours after sleep, and return to their highest point six hours after maximum wakefulness," Dr. Randall Bateman, associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, explained in the news release.

"We looked at many different behaviors, and the transitions between sleep and wakefulness were the only phenomena that strongly correlated with the rise and fall of amyloid beta in the spinal fluid," he added.

Bateman and colleagues also found this pattern was most prevalent in healthy, young people and less pronounced in older adults who suffer from shorter or more disrupted periods of sleep.

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