young man tried after a sleepless night

What losing one night of sleep can do to your brain

When we can’t sleep, we cannot function at our best the next day.

We know that lack of sleep leads to reduced brain performance affecting out cognitive functioning.

But losing one night of sleep may have potentially harmful effects on our brain particularly an increase in beta-amyloid – a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by amyloid plaques formed when beta-amyloid proteins clump together.

The participants with larger increases in beta amyloid also reported worse moods after losing one night of sleep.

Beta amyloid is a metabolic waste found in the fluid between brain cells. When the beta-amyloid clumps together, it negatively impacts communication between the neurons.

It is known that acute sleep deprivation elevates brain beta-amyloid levels in mice but very little is known about the impact of sleep deprivation on beta-amyloid build up in humans.

In a new study to investigate the link between beta amyloid accumulations and sleeps, researchers used PET (positron emission tomography) to scan the brains of 20 healthy participants.

Participants ranged in age from 22 to 72 years.

Participants were scanned after a night of rested sleep and after a night of staying awake for about 31 hours.

The researchers found that after just one night of sleep deprivation, the beta amyloid increased by 5 percent in the brain regions including the thalamus and hippocampus – regions especially vulnerable to damage in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The participants with larger increases in beta amyloid also reported worse moods after losing one night of sleep.

In Alzheimer’s disease beta- amyloid is known to increase by about 43 percent in affected individuals compared to healthy older adults. The researchers do not know if the increase in beta amyloid in the study participants will reduce after a night of sleep.

This link between sleep disorder and Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be bidirectional as increased beta-amyloid may also lead to sleep disorders.

The study just like another previous study demonstrates that lack of sleep has a negative effect on beta amyloid thus increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep is vital for us and helps our brain function. So getting plenty of it not only makes us feel rested and invigorated but it also helps our body heal and relax.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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