Poor sleep linked to Alzheimer's

One or two restless nights should not cause long-term damage

A new report finds a lack of good sleep may raise the risk for dementia.

"When people don't sleep well, their brain cells don't get a chance to rest," explains Dr. Yo-El Ju.

Dr. Ju tracked the sleep habits of 17 healthy people at home and also had them spend two nights in her sleep lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Each time the participants drifted into deep sleep a beeping monitor would rouse them out of it and into lighter sleep.

That caused levels of proteins called amyloid to rise in their spinal fluid.

"Also, when we looked at their home sleep, the worse their sleep, the more their tau increased. Both amyloid and tau are proteins involved in Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Ju says.

One or two restless nights should not cause long-term damage. The concern is for chronic sleep deprivation.

"If you're not getting enough sleep over months and months, yeah, it's going to lead to you having problems down the line," warns Dr. Douglas Kirsch of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Sleep experts advise staying away from caffeine, alcohol and electronics before bed.

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