Could a Good Night's Sleep Guard Against Alzheimer's?
Study found that older people who got more sleep had less of the disease's hallmark plaques in their brains
Or it might just mean that Alzheimer's disease causes sleep disturbances, he added.
"So far, there is no evidence that sleeping pills reduce Alzheimer's disease risk," said Cole, who also is associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine. "Like problems with sleep, people treating the sleep loss with sleeping pills still have increased Alzheimer's disease risk. You wouldn't want to lose too much sleep worrying about sleep loss as a cause or consequence of Alzheimer's disease until we learn more."
Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, in New York City, said sleep appears to be necessary to clear the brain of toxins like beta amyloid.
"There is accumulating evidence that beta amyloid and other metabolites are cleared during sleep, so there is probably at least an effect of sleep dysfunction on beta amyloid accumulation," Gandy said.
"That does not exclude the possibility that amyloid regulates sleep," he said. "That should be testable, by transferring cerebrospinal fluid from sleep-deprived animals into non-sleep-deprived animals to see whether that causes sleep dysfunction in the recipient."
For this study, Spira's team used data from 70 adults who took part in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Those in the study, who had an average age of 76, reported how well they slept, while the amount of beta amyloid in their brains was measured with brain scans.
The researchers found that those who said they slept less -- around five hours a night -- and those whose quality of sleep was poor had more plaque build-up than those who slept longer and better.