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One Night of Sleep Deprivation Can Impact Brain Health by Dr. Smita Patel

Posted on 11/28/18 by Dina Anderson, AARP Blog Author

In recognition of November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, this is blog post #3 of 4 in my series, to highlight Alzheimer’s research and shed light on ways we can preserve our brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Feeling ‘foggy’ after a sleepless night? There’s some science behind that.

A large body of research links poor sleep and sleep issues (like apnea) to increased risk of Alzheimer’s, and it’s estimated that 15% of Alzheimer’s may be attributable to problems with sleep.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine recently carried out a study with subjects who received a brain   scan after a restful night of sleep and again after a night where sleep was restricted. They found significant measurable increases in amyloid protein in the brain after one night of sleep deprivation. Amyloid is a protein that accumulates and creates plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. This increase was found especially in the hippocampus and thalamus, two Alzheimer’s-specific regions of the brain.

Previous research in animals has identified a metabolite-clearance system in the brain that is most active during deep sleep. This system clears away proteins and other “waste”, like amyloid, that has accumulated during the day

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good night’s rest. Experts recommend 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night, and, if you have difficulty achieving this on your own, consider talking to your doctor, a sleep specialist, or a physician specializing in brain health. For tips on ways to improve your sleep habits, read more here:

Shokri-Kojori E, Wang GJ, Wiers CE et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2018 Apr 24;115(17):4482-4488.

About the Author:

Smita Patel, DO, is a neurologist at NorthShore Neurological Institute and Director of the Center for Brain Health. Dr. Patel brings expertise in neurology and sleep along with complementary and integrative medicine to develop tailored health plans for her patients. She is board certified in neurology, sleep medicine and integrative medicine. Dr. Patel has participated in clinical research studies in the area of sleep medicine and has written book chapters for several academic publications on neurological disorders. She has a strong interest in researching the cause and treatment of neurological diseases as well as supporting and participating in educational programs. Dr. Patel directs a comprehensive team at the Center for Brain Health, and works with patients to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders, and to improve brain health. For more information, visit

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