Sleep deprivation accelerates Alzheimer’s brain damage

A slice of brain tissue from a person who died with dementia shows an elongated brown triangle – a toxic tangle of tau protein associated with Alzheimer's disease and brain damage. A study in mice and people from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that sleep deprivation causes tau levels to rise and tau tangles to spread through the brain, accelerating Alzheimer's brain damage.
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Poor sleep has long been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers have understood little about how sleep disruptions drive the disease.

Now, studying mice and people, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that sleep deprivation increases levels of the key Alzheimer’s protein tau. And, in follow-up studies in the mice, the research team has shown that sleeplessness accelerates the spread through the brain of toxic clumps of tau ­– a harbinger of brain damage and decisive step along the path to dementia.