According to the study, clumps of protein known as plaques in the brain are thought to play a key role in the development of the dementia.
Whilst the role of plaque has been known for some time now, a recent study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows that when this plaque first begins to develop, mice begin to exhibit signs of disrupted sleep.
Whilst obviously far more tests will be needed in order to establish whether or not this link is present in humans, Alzheimer’s Research UK believe that should the link be proven then it could become an extremely useful tool for doctors.
Medical professionals have long since been searching for ways to identify Alzheimer’s as early as possible, as catching the disease before it has fully developed can be crucial for treatment.
Unfortunately however, most individuals affected tend not to display symptoms with their memory until the later stages of the disease, at which point parts of the brain will already have been destroyed making treatment all the more difficult.
The experiments in question took place at Washington University and showed that nocturnal mice generally slept for around 40 minutes during every hour of daylight. However, this soon changed when brain plaques started to develop, after which the mice were only sleeping for 30 minutes to every hour.
One of the researchers working on the project, Professor David Holtzman, said: “If sleep abnormalities begin this early in the course of human Alzheimer’s disease, those changes could provide us with an easily detectable sign of [the disease].”
Whilst these findings are positive, it will be some time before they are cemented and thus the disease is still very difficult to detect and treat.
Whilst there is no known cure for the disease, there are ways of delaying the onset and learning to live more comfortably. Carers or dementia patients who are looking for additional practical and emotional support may find that psychotherapy/CBT may help to release some of the associated stresses and strains. Visit our Dementia fact-sheet to find out more.
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