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Changes in marker for Alzheimer's linked to sleep cycle

Micrograph of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, as may be seen in Alzheimer disease.
(Via Wikimedia Commons user Nephron)
Micrograph of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, as may be seen in Alzheimer disease.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown a relationship between daily sleep patterns and a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that levels of the beta amyloid protein in spinal fluid increased during waking hours and decreased during sleep.

Wash U neurologist Randall Bateman says that pattern was strongest in young, healthy test subjects. It lessened in people over sixty, and disappeared altogether in Alzheimer’s patients.

Bateman says those findings have implications for doctors using beta amyloid measurements to study Alzheimer’s.

"One immediate recommendation is that we do our spinal taps or our lumbar punctures at the same time of day, so that the time of day doesn’t increase the variability of those measurements," Bateman said.

Bateman says more research is needed to determine whether disrupted sleep patterns actually contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.

"We want to follow up with this and determine if things like sleep deprivation or altered circadian patterns can influence the risk of Alzheimer’s disease," Bateman said. "There is some evidence out there that that might be the case. But this gives it an actual mechanism of how it might happen."

The study is published online in the Archives of Neurology.

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