Health News: Sleep Problems May Be Early Alzheimer’s Sign

Sleep disruptions may be among the earliest indicators of Alzheimer’s disease according to a recent report in Science Translational Medicine. Working in a mouse model, researchers found that when the first signs of Alzheimer’s plaques appear in the brain, the normal sleep-wake cycle is significantly disrupted.

“If sleep abnormalities begin this early in the course of human Alzheimer’s disease, those changes could provide us with an easily detectable sign of pathology,” says senior author

David M. Holtzman, MD, head of Washington University’s Department of Neurology. “As we start to treat Alzheimer’s patients before the onset of dementia, the presence or absence of sleep problems may be a rapid indicator of whether the new treatments are succeeding.”

The new research—led by Jee Hoon Roh, MD, PhD, a neurologist and postdoctoral fellow in Holtzman’s laboratory—shows that when the first indicators of brain plaques appear, the natural fluctuations in amyloid beta levels that rise during wakefulness and fall during sleep stop in both mice and humans.