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Why Sleep Cycle Disruptions May Be A Warning Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease

Woman sleeping

New research shows that the disruption of our sleep cycles, known as circadian rhythm cycles, can warn us of impending dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. One of the key characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the inability to sleep consistently at night while struggling to remain awake during the day.


A new study published by JAMA Neurology yesterday discovered that people with no cognitive impairment were more likely to have amyloid protein deposits in their brains if their sleep-wake cycle was irregular. These indicative deposits of amyloid plaque can remain undetected for years before symptoms of memory loss or cognitive impairment become apparent.

The findings revealed that participants who followed a consistent sleep pattern and remained awake and alert throughout the daytime were less likely to develop amyloid plaque deposits in their brains. The research did not indicate if sleep pattern disruption was a predisposing factor in Alzheimer’s or just another symptom of the disease. More research is necessary to explore a deeper significance between sleep cycle disruption and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep Recommendations

Dr. Eric S. Musiek, a Washington University neurologist exploring the role of the circadian clock in aging, advises: “You want to consolidate your sleep as much as possible at night. I always tell my patients not to use electronic devices at night, to sleep in a dark room, and to go to sleep, not watch TV in bed.” He also recommends to: “get up in the morning, get active, go out and get into the morning light” and added that eating a healthy breakfast “helps synchronize your clock.”

Musiek mentioned a study previously published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine whose findings may confirm the significance of the relationship between sleep cycle disruption and Alzheimer’s disease. In the study, the rodent participants’ normal circadian rhythms were turned upside down by a concoction of drugs and genetic engineering. This disruption resulted in amyloid plaque that began to swiftly accumulate in the hippocampus of the brain, a key structure responsible for memory and learning capacity. The study concluded by suggesting that the circadian rhythm abnormalities accelerated the amyloid plaque accumulation in the rodent’s brains.

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Circadian Rhythm Cycle

The study’s authors concluded: “A clear implication of our findings is that therapies directly targeting the circadian system to normalize circadian timing, rather than just augmenting total sleep, may be beneficial in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Musiek believes that our individual inclinations, whether we are early birds or night owls, are rooted in genetic expression.

The study also pointed out that circadian dysfunction is always associated with aging regardless of predisposing factors for Alzheimer’s disease. This especially applies to men. The study authors hope that this new research will serve as yet another biomarker indicative of early cognitive decline.


In conclusion, the quality of our sleep is crucial on a variety of levels. As I mentioned in a previous article, it is only in the deepest REM portion of the sleep cycle that our brains are able to dissolve amyloid plaque deposits. Bedtime should be a top priority for all of us.

Check out these other great articles by EMaxHealth: Why Aerobic Exercise May Play a Role in the Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease and How Sleep Apnea Increases Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease.