In two new studies, researchers found sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The findings emphasize the importance of good nights’ sleep in our brain health.
In one study, researchers found people with sleep apnea have higher levels of an Alzheimer’s disease biomarker called tau in their brain.
Sleep apnea is a disease in which people stop breathing temporally during sleep. Healthy people often have less than five episodes of apnea per hour during sleep.
Tau is a protein that forms into tangles and usually found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent research has linked sleep apnea to a higher risk of dementia.
The current study aimed to find whether witnessed apneas during sleep is linked to tau protein deposition in the brain.
The team examined 288 people age 65 and older who did not have cognitive impairment.
For all the participants, their bed partners were asked whether they had seen stopped breathing of the patients during sleep.
These people also had a PET scan to test the tau levels in their brain areas related to memory functions.
The researchers found people who had sleep apnea had about 4.5% higher levels of tau in the brain than people who had no sleep apnea.
It shows the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation or the possibility that higher levels of tau in other regions may predispose a person to sleep apnea.
One study author is Diego Z. Carvalho, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The study is presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
In a second study, researchers found rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder could help predict Parkinson’s disease progression.
The research was led by The Neuro and the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre.
The REM sleep disorder can lead to violent acting out of dreams as the normal paralysis during sleep is lost.
The disease has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia and multiple system atrophy in previous research.
Because the time between developing REM sleep disorder and developing symptoms of Parkinson’s is very long, it is possible to use the sleep disorder to predict Parkinson’s and test new therapies.
In the study, the team followed 1,280 patients with REM sleep disorder. The patients’ motor, cognitive, autonomic and special sensory abilities were tested.
The researchers found about 73.5% of the patients developed Parkinson’s after 12 years of follow up.
In addition, patients who had motor difficulties were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s diseases. Mild cognitive and olfactory impairment are also signs of Parkinson’s.
The team also found that motor tests could effectively predict Parkinson’s progression.
The finding shows that people with REM sleep disorder have a very high risk of Parkinson’s.
The finding could help test new drugs that may prevent PD from occurring because it can identify people who are at high risk of Parkinson’s disease before it really develops.
This is the largest study ever performed on patients with REM sleep disorder. The data were collected across multiple centers in North America, Europe, and Asia, making the results. more robust.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Ron Postuma.
The study is published in the journal Brain.
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