A new study has discovered a link between Alzheimer’s disease and the natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, which could lead to potential treatment options.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease and the most common type of dementia that causes memory loss. This degenerative disease affects more than six million Americans and is the cause of death for one in three seniors, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
While it’s already known that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the brain’s inability to clear the buildup of a protein called amyloid-beta, the research published by the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Genetics shows that disruptions of the circadian rhythm make the brain’s process of clearing the protein much more difficult.
The researchers studied macrophages and enzymes that play a role in clearing the protein build-up in the brain, and found that the macrophages and enzymes followed a pattern that fluctuated with the circadian rhythm. By finding a way to boost the circadian rhythm, it could increase the macrophages and enzymes that could clear the protein build-up that is related to Alzheimer’s according to Jennifer Hurley, an expert in circadian rhythms, and associate professor of biological science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“This insight reveals a new mechanism and path to treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s through an interdisciplinary approach, and is emblematic of the CBIS strength in research and discovery and provides a new angle to human health and well-being,” Deepak Vashishth, director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), said in a press release.
In addition, the study emphasizes the importance of healthy sleep patterns in order to prevent Alzheimer’s. Unhealthy sleeping habits over a long period may cause diseases like Alzheimer’s to persist. According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is also linked to depression, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
To acquire a healthy sleeping schedule, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, establishing a bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed and keeping your bedroom dark, comfortable and at a cooler temperature.
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