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If you’re having trouble sleeping now, you may have more to worry about than eyebags in the future. According to research to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, people who have trouble getting a good night’s sleep often develop memory problems later on in life.
Studying the sleep patterns of 100 participants between the ages 48 and 80--all of them without dementia--researchers hoped to find a reason for the onset of future memory loss. Over two weeks, devices that monitored their sleep were placed on the participants, who also kept sleep diaries and answered questionnaires. Upon analysis of the results, researchers discovered that those who had trouble sleeping seemed to develop a buildup of amyloid plaques—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Of the 100 participants, 25 percent showed evidence of the buildup. Those who woke up five times per hour were also more likely to develop amyloid plaques compared to those who did not.
Despite the intriguing discovery, researchers believe that it is still too early to say that sleep problems are directly responsible for future memory loss. For the moment, their study serves as a significant jump-off point for further research on Alzheimer’s disease.
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(Photo by Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr Creative Commons)