Researchers have discovered there may be a link between poor sleep and the increased risk for Alzheimer's Disease. Director of Imaging from LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center Owen Carmichael says those with the disease generally have disturbed sleep. He says the question of whether sleep issues cause Alzheimer's has long been something scientists have wondered.
"What this new research is suggesting in a way is that disturbed sleep might actually play a role in helping to cause Alzheimer's Disease," Carmichael said.
A protein is produced throughout a person's life that Carmichael calls the "garbage of the brain." He says that Alzheimer's is caused when there is too much of this protein stored up and not emptied out.
"The garbage collectors of the brain that process this garbage protein and get it out of the brain, those garbage collectors kick into overdrive during sleep," Carmichael said.
People who do not sleep well at night are often diagnosed with other medical problems because of their poor sleeping habits. Carmichael says this research shows that not getting adequate, undisturbed sleep can mean the protein isn't cleaned out properly.
"You're not giving these garbage collection processes enough time to scoop out this garbage protein out of the brain, and so it builds up steadily over time."