A new study says that falling asleep during the day could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study followed 283 people without dementia who were over 70. The participants answered questions about their sleep habits and underwent several brain scans over a seven year period.
Researchers discovered that 63 participants (22.3%) had excessive daytime sleepiness, and this was associated with increased amyloid plaque accumulation in susceptible regions of the brain.
Daytime sleepiness was linked to an increase in longitudinal beta amyloid accumulation among elderly adults, indicating excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) may be a risk factor for dementia.
According to researchers, this is because the human brain clears away amyloid when the body is asleep.
They concluded that people who are suffering broken sleep at night are more likely to have build-ups of the toxic substance.
Genetic factors contribute to the degenerative brain disorder that robs people of their memory and biological process related to aging play a role as well.
Early identification of patients with EDS and treatment of underlying sleep disorders could reduce amyloid-beta accumulation in this vulnerable group.
Researchers said ageing has been linked with daytime drowsiness with research showing up to three-in-ten older adults fall asleep in the day and have ‘frequent sleep attacks’.
It comes after a separate study last year found people who slept poorly were more likely to have amyloid or another protein called tau in their spinal fluid.
“I would hope that people understand that good sleep habits are important to have a healthy brain, since it can prevent amyloid, which is one of the primary proteins underlying Alzheimer’s disease,” lead author Prashanthi Vemuri said.
This study is the first in humans to demonstrate a predictive association between a measure of sleep disturbance at baseline and change in an Alzheimer’s disease biomarker across multiple points.
However the study fell short of categorically answering why and how sleep has this effect. The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.