Understanding Alzheimer’s and Sleep Issues
Alzheimer’s disease is a scary sickness that affects the brain. It causes people to forget things and feel confused. Oddly enough, many people with Alzheimer’s have trouble sleeping years before they start forgetting things.
This shows that bad sleep can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Scientists believe that bad sleep can also speed up Alzheimer’s.
The Role of a Sleeping Pill in Fighting Alzheimer’s
Scientists from a place called Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been studying this. They did a small study over two nights.
In the study, people took a sleeping pill before going to bed. The results were good: there was a drop in the levels of Alzheimer’s proteins in these people.
This is a good sign because high levels of these proteins mean the disease is getting worse.
The pill they took is called suvorexant. It’s already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people who have trouble sleeping.
This study suggests that sleep medications like suvorexant might be able to slow down or stop Alzheimer’s. But, the scientists say we need more studies to be sure.
A Word of Caution
Brendan Lucey, MD, who led the study, warns against jumping to conclusions. He says, “This was a small study to see if the idea is worth exploring more.
It’s too early for people to start taking suvorexant every night if they’re worried about Alzheimer’s. We don’t know yet if it works long-term, how much should be taken, or who it works best for.
But the results are promising. This drug is safe and affects proteins that drive Alzheimer’s.”
How Does Suvorexant Work?
Suvorexant is a kind of insomnia medication that blocks orexin. Orexin is something our body makes to keep us awake. When it’s blocked, we fall asleep. Three types of these drugs are approved by the FDA.
Alzheimer’s starts when a protein called amyloid beta builds up in the brain. After many years, another brain protein, tau, starts to form toxic tangles.
When these tau tangles appear, people start showing signs of Alzheimer’s like memory loss.
The Study in Detail
To see how suvorexant affects people, Dr. Lucey and his team did a sleep study with 38 participants. They were all between 45 to 65 years old and had no cognitive impairments.
They were given either a low or high dose of suvorexant or a placebo before they went to bed.
The scientists then took a small amount of fluid from their spine every two hours for 36 hours. They checked how amyloid and tau levels changed over this time.
Findings of the Study
The results showed that those who took a high dose of suvorexant had a 10% to 20% drop in amyloid levels compared to those who took the placebo.
A key form of tau also dropped by 10% to 15% compared to the placebo group. The low dose of suvorexant didn’t show a significant difference from the placebo.
24 hours after the first dose, the tau levels in the high-dose group had gone up. But the amyloid levels stayed low compared to the placebo group.
The second dose sent both protein levels down again in the high-dose group.
Dr. Lucey thinks that if they can lower amyloid every day, fewer amyloid plaques will build up in the brain over time. And if they can reduce tau, there would be fewer tau tangles, which could prevent the death of brain cells.
f you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about personality traits linked to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, and how to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about alternative drug strategies against Alzheimer’s, and coconut oil may help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
The study was published in the Annals of Neurology.
Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.