Less Sleep Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease

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Here’s one more reason to get to bed earlier.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who get less sleep or poor quality sleep  tend to have abnormal brain images that hint at the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists studied 70 adults in their mid-70s participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The participants answered questions about their sleep patterns and underwent brain imaging to measure the amount of beta amyloid plaque in their brains. Build-up of these plaques are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

(MORE: Your Brain Cells Shrink While You Sleep (And That’s a Good Thing)

Fluctuating levels of beta amyloid, it seemed, were regulated by sleeping habits. People who reported sleeping less, or having trouble sleeping were more likely to have higher levels of beta amyloid plaque in their brains.

That doesn’t mean that those volunteers were on their way to developing Alzheimer’s, but it raises the possibility that sleep, and giving the brain proper time to rest every day, may be an important way to keeping plaques to a minimum. Improving sleep may even be a critical part of preventing the neurodegenerative disease.

(MORE: Two Studies Find Promising New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Earlier)

The new report correlates well with the findings from another recent study in the journal Science that revealed sleep washes out waste, including amyloid proteins, and shrinks cells to keep them functioning efficiently.