Many people with Alzheimer’s begin experiencing sleep disturbances years before the onset of cognitive problems such as memory loss and confusion.
These sleep disturbances may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s, as the disease is associated with changes in the brain that disrupt sleep, and sleep deprivation also accelerates harmful changes in the brain.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, have identified a possible way to break this connection.
A small study found that people who took sleeping pills before bed experienced a decrease in the levels of Alzheimer’s-related proteins in the brain, which is a good sign because higher levels of these proteins cause the disease to worsen.
The researchers followed 38 participants aged 45 to 65 without any cognitive impairment over two nights. They used suvorexant for two nights, a prescription drug sold under the brand name Belsomra, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia.
And those who took the highest dose had amyloid levels in their cerebrospinal fluid by one-fifth lower than the other participants by the next morning.
The researchers do not encourage people to start taking the pill every night, saying more research is needed to confirm their findings.
Previous research has shown that taking sleeping pills can actually increase someone’s risk of getting sick because they interfere with a healthy night’s sleep.
Research shows that the accumulation of proteins in the brain, such as amyloid and tau, can slow communication between cells and even kill them, leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Other theories point to factors such as damage to blood vessels passing through the brain as risk factors for the disease.
Researchers have shown that sleep can help remove these proteins from the brain.
In addition to sleeping pills, people may also try to stick to consistent bedtimes, avoid looking at screens before bed, and avoid bright lights during the late hours to help with sleep.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Brendan Lucey, a sleep specialist, said the study was “small,” adding: “It would be premature for people concerned about the development of Alzheimer’s to interpret the results as a reason to start taking suvorexant every night.”
He added: “We do not yet know if long-term use is effective in preventing cognitive decline, and if so, at what dose and for whom it is allowed. However, these results are very encouraging. This drug is already available and proven to be safe, and now we have the evidence for it.” It affects the levels of key proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Suvorexant works by blocking receptors in the brain for the hormone orexin, which promotes alertness.
Researchers suggest that this may help a person fall asleep faster. It is not yet clear how this may affect the quality of sleep.
Source: Daily Mail
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