Often, deficiency in sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s, but to what extent is this true? Let’s find out!

Waking up a number of times during the night or deficiency of sleep or insomnia can prove to be adverse for the brain. It also enhances the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to some new studies.

Reason for this

According to a research study, it’s been observed that lack of adequate sleep leads to increased levels of beta-amyloid deposition in the brains of the elderly, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid is a toxic protein which builds up in your brain and leads to plaque within the brains of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Hence, a sleepless night not only affects your memory power the next day; it also increases the odds of developing Alzheimer’s. According to researchers, lack of adequate sleep causes the accumulation of memory-robbing protein in the brain. This, in turn, leads to high levels of beta-amyloid protein which disrupts sleep, thereby causing a vicious cycle resulting in Alzheimer’s. Hence, sleep therapies can in fact delay the onset of this disease.

Sleep, in fact, is a normal therapeutic target for combating memory impairment in older adults. A lot of sample studies have been done on selected men and women to find that lack of sleep can indeed put you at risk for Alzheimer’s.

No clear findings

However, the researchers could not state whether poor sleep led to accumulation of beta-amyloid or if beta-amyloid accumulation led to poor sleep. The chain of events and the causal effects are still not clear among researchers. However, both may be true; in other words, poor sleep might lead to beta-amyloid build-up, which then actually disrupts sleep. Further research has been called for to find out the facts about whether optimizing sleep can slow down, delay, or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another research study has suggested that the reason that poor sleep might be linked to Alzheimer’s disease is because sleep helps to get rid of toxic molecules in your brain.

Mice results

Research has been conducted on mice. When mice sleep, the cells within their brains actually shrink. This makes space for a better flow of fluids through the brain. As a result of the increased flow of fluids, harmful and toxic waste substances like beta-amyloid are flushed out. The link between lack of sound sleep and brain plaque in mice is definitely a hallmark of this disease.

In an additional study, the researchers observed that sleep dulled the effect of a gene, known as APOE-E4, which predisposes a person to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. According to scientists, among people who carry this gene, those who sleep most soundly exhibited more preservation of thinking skills and memory.

Previous studies show that lack of adequate sleep can cause thinking problems and loss of memory, even among healthy people. Sleep apnea along with poor sleep is often a common cause of Alzheimer’s in the elderly.

Hence, a sound night’s sleep along with a healthy lifestyle can keep this disease at bay.


Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.