Short sleep duration and poor sleep quality were associated with a greater beta-amyloid burden—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease—in the elderly, according to a newly released study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Our study found that among older adults, reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with higher levels of ?-Amyloid measured by PET scans of the brain,” says Adam Spira, PhD, lead author of the study, in a release. “These results could have significant public health implications as Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and approximately half of older adults have insomnia symptoms.”
In a cross-sectional study of adults from the neuro-imagining sub-study of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging with an average age of 76, the researchers examined the association between self-reported sleep variables and beta-amyloid deposition. Study participants reported sleep that ranged from more than seven hours to no more than five hours. Beta-amyloid deposition was measured by the Pittsburgh compound B tracer and PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the brain. Reports of shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality were both associated with greater beta-amyloid buildup.
“These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” Spira says. He added that the findings cannot demonstrate a causal link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, and that longitudinal studies with objective sleep measures are needed to further examine whether poor sleep contributes to or accelerates Alzheimer’s disease.
Other study authors are Adam P. Spira, Alyssa A. Gamaldo, Yang An, Mark N. Wu, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Murat Bilgel, Yun Zhou, Dean F. Wong, Luigi Ferrucci, and Susan M. Resnick.