Study: Even One Night of Lost Sleep Could Raise Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

How did you sleep last night?

Turns out, getting enough sleep is extremely important for our long-term health, and even one night of bad sleep can increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in January in the medical journal Neurology.

In the study, a small group of 15 healthy younger men (they had an average age of 22) who were not able to sleep for just one night had a 17% increase in their blood of tau, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s, compared to when they had an uninterrupted night of sleep. Tau protein is often seen in those who have Alzheimer’s disease.

As part of the study, they slept well for two nights but then they were not able to sleep for one night. The men said that aside from the sleepless night in the experiment, they usually slept well at night.

It’s not entirely clear why the tau protein increased after the night of bad sleep, although researchers theorize that when humans are awake for a longer time period than what’s normal, our brains may not be able to clear tau efficiently.

If you’re facing a few sleepless nights, it’s not time to worry just yet. More studies are needed that are larger and that includes people who are middle-aged, as those factors might show a clearer connection with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study also focused only on men, so additional research is needed with women.

However, the study is still a reminder about the importance of sleep and how even though we’re resting during shut-eye, our brains are still working hard. To help get a better night’s sleep, establish a pre-sleep routine, avoid distractions like smartphone use right before bed, and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

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