Critter Corner: Can Poor Sleep Cause Alzheimer’s?

Dear Ribbit

I have been an insomniac for most of my adult life. Now, I hear that poor sleep can cause Alzheimer’s. Is that true?

Anita Moore-Sleep


Dear Anita

Similar to your situation, 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep, and 45% of the world’s population doesn’t either. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is a “public health problem,” because disrupted sleep is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Now, you can add Alzheimer’s to that list.

Research in both mice and humans shows that disturbed sleep leads to higher levels of the protein believed to be responsible for Alzheimer’s. The study, published in the journal, “Neurology,” looked at the relationship between sleep quality and levels of various proteins and inflammatory markers in 101 cognitively healthy adults with an average age of 63. All participants had known risk factors for Alzheimer’s, such as family history or evidence of the Alzheimer’s gene, which is associated with a greater chance of developing the disease. Their sleep quality was rated on a scale that measured amount, quality and trouble sleeping, along with daytime drowsiness and naps.

“Participants in our study were willing to undergo a lumbar puncture to move research on Alzheimer’s disease forward,” said co-author Barbara Bendlin of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “Analyzing this fluid allowed us to look at markers related to Alzheimer’s disease such as plaques and tangles, as well as markers of inflammation and nerve cell damage.”

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association believes that, “(t)his new study suggests there may be an opportunity to improve cognition and possibly reduce Alzheimer’s risk through early diagnosis and effective treatment of sleep disorders.”

Don’t despair, however. “Not everyone who experiences sleep problems should now worry about developing Alzheimer’s due to Alzheimer’s disease,” researchers said, adding that “there is not yet a clear cause and effect relationship.”

 For tips to help you sleep, check out this article.

 Hope this is helpful,



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