Research: Sleep problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease

Posted on 11/10/17 by Dina Anderson

AARP blog post 1 Nov 2017

Dr. Smita Patel

In recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November, I will focus a 3-part series on the latest research focusing on the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. I also encourage you to view my earlier AARP blog posts, to learn about ways to reduce risks and preserve brain health.

Have you heard that poor sleep quality, whether due to bad habits or to medical conditions (like sleep apnea) raises your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?

That is the developing consensus based on a growing body of research.  One such study found that poor sleep is associated with “biomarkers” of Alzheimer’s pathology in the cerebral spinal fluid (abnormal ratios of two proteins, amyloid and tau).

  The researchers studied data from subjects who had taken tests to determine the quality of their sleep  and subsequently had a spinal tap to measure levels of amyloid and tau proteins.

  They discovered that daytime sleepiness, the feeling that sleep was not of good quality, and sleep problems were associated with significantly higher levels of Alzheimer’s pathology as measured by the ratio of amyloid and tau in the cerebral spinal fluid.

  Taking our sleep seriously is something we can do to lower our risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Experts suggest 7-9 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.

  Sprecher KE, Koscik RL, Carlsson CM et al. Neurology. 2017 Jul 5. 


Dr. Smita Patel, DO, is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, and an integral part of NorthShore's Center for Brain Health. Dr. Patel brings expertise in neurology and sleep along with a proficiency in complementary and integrative medicine to develop tailored health plans for her clients.  She is board certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine. Dr. Patel has participated in clinical research studies in the are 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 is part of the integrated team at the Center for Brain Health at NorthShore Neurological Institute, working with patients to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson disease, and other brain disorders, and to improve brain health. For more information, please visit  NorthShore


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