School of Medicine

Scientists Discover A Link Between Lack Of Deep Sleep And Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s growing evidence that a lack of deep sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists say that’s because during deep sleep, the brain removes toxins associated with Alzheimer’s.


ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: We continue to learn about the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. NPR’s Jon Hamilton brings us this report done with the NPR science podcast Short Wave…

…HAMILTON: There’s some evidence that rhythmic sounds can increase slow waves in people. And researchers at Washington University in St. Louis showed that treating a sleep disorder also helped. Dr. Yo-El Ju was part of a team that studied patients with sleep apnea.

YO-EL JU: They seem to have a change in their ability to clear proteins or, you know, waste products from their brain. And people with obstructive sleep apnea are at higher risk for dementia down the line.

HAMILTON: So Ju’s team looked to see what happened after treatment allowed better sleep. The result – more deep sleep and more beta amyloid cleared from the brain. And Ju says there was another effect – participants’ brains began making less beta amyloid.

JU: So I don’t know whether it’s that sleep increases clearance or whether sleep decreases the production of waste products.

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