Karen Fratti
July 12, 2017 3:46 pm
WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

Not getting enough sleep is bad for you. We all know this. It makes you cranky, can be bad for your health, and make your skin look less than glowing. Welp, a new study now says that losing sleep might affect how dementia develops. Which is just great, since, you know, studies also show that pretty much all of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Basically, we cannot win.

Researchers found that losing sleep causes brain proteins that are possibly connected to Alzheimer’s disease to build up. When you snooze, your brain clears the compounds (amyloid and tau) away. Don’t lose your mind just yet: the researchers don’t believe that losing sleep causes Alzheimers, but they did find that less sleep equals more of these proteins that they think causes Alzheimer’s. Dementia continues to confound scientists, so it’s merely another piece of the super confusing puzzle.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Yo-El Ju of Washington University in St. Louis, said that he and his team wanted to figure out what the most important phase of sleep is. So they gathered 17 healthy adults and tracked their sleep. “What we did was allow people to sleep a normal amount of time, but we prevented them from getting deep sleep or what is called slow-wave sleep,” Ju said.

When they interrupted the slow-wave sleep, there were higher levels of amyloid, so they deduced that that this deep, slow-wave sleep is key to reducing the proteins and possibly the risk of dementia later on in life. This was just after one single night of bad sleep! And seriously, it sounds just awful. The researchers allowed some people to sleep normally and others to be left in a constant state of shallow sleep. Every time one of the volunteers destined to be restless would start to drift in a slow-wave sleep, the scientists would trigger a beep. And the beeps would get progressively louder until they got back to a shallow sleep.

Uh, yea, it sounds pretty awful. Let’s hope the volunteers got paid. So the amyloid levels, which are just naturally occurring proteins that can build up in the body, went up after one night. The tau levels went up after the volunteers were allowed to go home and wear sleep monitors for week. (Same beeping method, BTW.)

There’s no known prevention or treatment for Alzheimer’s, so don’t head into an internet clickhole about how you don’t sleep just yet.

But try to eat properly and make sure you’re taking just as much care of your sleep health as you do, say, your skin. Dementia risks or not, nothing is better than a good night’s sleep.

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