The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a health advisory warning (PDF) of the significant role insufficient or poor sleep may have on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The AASM believes early intervention to treat a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease.
Epidemiologic studies of sleep show that years of chronic sleep loss or poor sleep may contribute to the gradual accumulation of beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease. This toxic material, linked to impairment of learning and memory, may be flushed out when sufficient sleep is achieved consistently.
“Research suggests, if not proves, at this point that sleep deprivation may actually increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ronald Chervin, MD, past president of the AASM. “These findings highlight two take-home points. First, good sleep, for enough hours each night, should be a priority for anyone who cares about the long-term health of his or her brain. And second, adults who sleep poorly should speak to their physicians or visit an accredited sleep center. The goal is not only to improve health, safety, and quality of life, but quite possibly to help reduce risk for dementia down the line.”
The AASM also stated that when OSA remains untreated, the ongoing, repetitive sleep disturbance, low oxygen levels, or other adverse effects such as increased beta-amyloid may contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The AASM recommends clinicians screen adults for signs of a possible sleep disorder, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, and unrefreshing sleep,” said Ilene Rosen, MD, president of the AASM. “More research should be conducted on the effects of insufficient sleep, poor sleep, and OSA in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”