You might be irritable after a rough night of sleep, but research from Washington University in Saint Louis suggests there might be more serious effects of a poor night sleep lurking inside your brain.
Researchers had 17 healthy adults wear an activity monitor to measure their quality of sleep at their home. Then, they came into the lab to spend the night in a comfortable sleep room.
Half slept normally, while the other half had their sleep disrupted by beeps whenever they lapsed into the restorative stage of sleep. Then, they underwent a lumbar puncture the next morning to measure levels of dementia-related proteins in their spinal fluid. After a month had passed, the participants returned and spent the night in the opposite condition as what they had before.
The researchers found after just one night of interrupted sleep, the people experienced a 10 percent increase in their amyloid beta levels, a specific protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. There was no change in levels of tau – another brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions. However, those who showed consistent poor sleep in the home portion of the study did show a spike in tau levels.
It’s unlikely that the changes after one night of poor sleep would be enough to influence your overall risk of Alzheimer’s, and the levels will probably decrease the next time you sleep normally. But those who chronically struggle with poor sleep may elevate those proteins.
Further studies are needed to determine whether improving sleep quality can actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but in the meantime, there’s no downside to improving your sleeping game. Try these 5 ways to improve your sleep.