A  A  A   Print
Seniors' Sleep Woes May Be Linked to Loss of Brain Cells

Seniors' Sleep Woes May Be Linked to Loss of Brain Cells

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Loss of brain cells that act as a "sleep switch" may help explain why many seniors have trouble falling and staying asleep, a new study suggests.

In Alzheimer's patients, sleep disruption can be especially severe and often results in nighttime confusion and wandering, according to the researchers.

The investigators analyzed data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which includes nearly 1,000 people who enrolled at age 65 and are being followed until death, at which point their brains are donated for research.

The results showed that elderly people and Alzheimer's patients have a substantial decline in what are called ventrolateral preoptic neurons, and that loss of these brain cells is associated with sleep problems.

"On average, a person in his 70s has about one hour less sleep per night than a person in his 20s," senior author Dr. Clifford Saper, chairman of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a medical center news release.

Sleep loss and fragmented sleep are associated with a number of health issues, including thinking and memory problems, increased blood pressure and vascular disease, and a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes, Saper said. "It now appears that loss of these neurons may be contributing to these various disorders as people age," he noted.

The study was published online Aug. 20 in the journal Brain.

"These findings provide the first evidence that the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus in humans probably plays a key role in causing sleep, and functions in a similar way to other species that have been studied," Saper said.

The loss of these neurons with aging and with Alzheimer's disease may be a reason why older individuals often face sleep disruptions, he added. "These results may, therefore, lead to new methods to diminish sleep problems in the elderly and prevent sleep-deprivation-related cognitive [mental] decline in people with dementia," he concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about age-related changes in sleep.

SOURCE: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, news release, Aug. 20, 2014

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.