Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s

While researchers have been looking at the complex relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep for years, there is still so much to learn and understand. A study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is shedding new light on the relationship between the two.Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer's

Learn more about how the study recently found that increased levels of the sleep protein that triggers wakefulness led to an increased build of beta-amyloid in the brain, the accumulation of which is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s.

The Relationship Between Alzheimer’s and Sleep

A study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis revealed that a protein in the brain called orexin may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s.

The study was published in a recent issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine. While previous studies have linked the onset of Alzheimer’s to sleep disturbances, exactly how lack of sleep contributes to the disease is largely unknown.

To learn more about the relationship between the two, researchers bred mice that were genetically predisposed to develop beta amyloid proteins with mice that did not have the gene for orexin, a protein in the brain that lets the brain know it is time to wake up after being asleep.

The offspring of the mice that did not have the orexin protein had significantly less beta amyloid proteins, which would indicate a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Then, they reversed the experiment and found that by increasing levels of orexin, the mice slept less and had significantly more beta amyloid plaques, suggesting an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Ways the Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s

David M. Holtzman, M.D., head of the Department of Neurology and lead author of the study, said:

“This indicates we should be looking hard at orexin as a potential target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.”

He continues, “Blocking orexin to increase sleep in patients with sleep abnormalities, or perhaps even to improve sleep efficiency in healthy people, may be a way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is important to explore further.”

The research team is continuing to explore the relationship between Alzheimer’s and sleep by studying how sleep medication could affect the build up of beta amyloid plaque.

What do you think about the complex relationship between Alzheimer’s and this sleep protein? What more could the relationship between the two tell us? We’d love to hear your thoughts about the study in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • First let me thank Ms. Sauer for her article, I would agree that sleep (or the lack thereof) probably was a contrributing factor in my Mother’s health, she has since passed on (Sept. ’13) due to complications from Alzheimer’s.
    I did want to mention a typo in your title: Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s, rather it should read: Sleep Protein INCREASES Risk for Alzheimer’s. I believe this was an honest mistake and I simply wanted to let you know and hopefully correct it. With so much information coming to light every day about this devastating illness, those effected and those who care for them need to know and be given the right information which they can in turn discuss with their doctor(s) as to the proper course of “treatment”. Even though there is no cure, there are ways to try and slow down the progression, sadly due to other health issues my Mother had to contend with, her progression came faster than one would have expected.
    Without question raising awareness is key and fighting this disease!

  • Emily May

    I use 400 mg of Magnesium glycinate for sleep…this is the recommended daily dosage of magnesium. It definitely helps me sleep better and longer. Wondering whether levels of magnesium affect levels of orexin? Does anyone have the answer?

  • sid

    I have asked Drs. & neurologists whether lack of good sleep was a symptom or a cause. Recently I learned about Cognitive Behavior Therapy – I think this may be a big boost to me getting a decent night’s sleep. I’m curious if other readers have tried this.

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