Researchers explore link between Alzheimer’s and sleep


Researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich are to investigate the link between sleep disturbances and Alzheimer’s disease in a bid to discover if poor sleep is a symptom or an early indicator of risk.

The newly established sleep and dementia research unit at the University will track the sleep of volunteers overnight with the initial tests focusing on those with a genetically increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The research will aim to discover if these people are more susceptible to sleep disturbances and how their body clock is affected by poor sleep.

The participants will be asked to keep a sleep diary at home and wear a device that will track their sleep patterns. They will then take part in a three-night study at the centre. While at the centre they will either have one night of complete sleep deprivation or be allowed to take short naps.

The study leader Dr Alpar Lazar from UAE’s School of Health Sciences admits that the schedule is gruelling for the volunteers, but he believes that it will help in the understanding of the links between sleep, the body clock and the genetic risk of Alzheimer’s. He points out that good sleep is central to good cognitive performance including memory and attention. Additionally, this study can help in the design of future studies that will investigate sleep related interventions for dementia sufferers.

It is hoped that the research will show if treating sleep problems early on could help to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s in the long run. This is the only study that has looked into sleep treatments for these patients.

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