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Circadian Rhythm and Link to Alzheimer’s

Posted on Friday, March 18, 2022
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson

Most people have heard the expression “getting some beauty rest.” That term refers to a period of peaceful sleep that makes people appear more attractive and youthful. The saying has often been chalked up to a myth; however, science has proven that beauty rest indeed exists. In fact, a good night’s sleep can reduce dark circles under the eyes and prevent puffy lids that make people look tired and weary. Regular sleep can also decrease wrinkles as collagen is produced while sleeping. This, in turn, helps to prevent sagging skin. Per Web MD, “Only getting 5 hours a night can lead to twice as many fine lines as sleeping 7 would. It also leaves skin drier, which can make lines more visible, “ per Patricia Wexler, MD, a renowned dermatologist from New York. Just as sleep can affect beauty, it also influences health. Interestingly, scientists have recently discovered a link between circadian rhythm and Alzheimer’s disease. The latter is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. The hope is that the link will help uncover the cause of the disease to create a cure.

Circadian rhythm is the natural, internal process that regulates body processes such as the sleep-wake cycle. It repeats every 24 hours and tells the body when it’s time for sleep. It is essentially part of the body’s internal clock and helps us to gain consistent and restorative sleep. But, when something is wrong with one’s circadian rhythm, cycles such as sleep can become difficult and can lead to problems such as insomnia. Doctors have noted that people with Alzheimer’s disease commonly experience sleep disturbances and circadian disruptions. In many cases, sleep problems can occur years before the condition is diagnosed. The findings of a recent study show that circadian clocks control the brain’s ability to mop up wayward proteins linked to the disease. Thus, possibly, sleep disturbances may feed the development and progression of the disease.

Per The Guardian, “To keep the brain healthy, immune cells called microglia seek out and destroy troublesome proteins that threaten to accumulate in the brain. One type of protein targeted by the cells is called amyloid beta, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. ” Dr. Jennifer Hurley, leader of the research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of New York described a daily rhythm in microglia to clear protein. When the cells lost their circadian rhythm, the clearing routine faltered. The disruption is believed to be connected to why patients with the disease experience an increase in plaques that form in the brain.

Every new study brings scientists closer to understanding more about Alzheimer’s. This most recent research involves mouse immune cells. The study concluded that protein plaques associated with the disease may build up when sleep is disrupted because of negative effects on the cells, which normally destroy them. This focuses renewed attention on the importance of sleep, not for beauty in this case, but to help ensure the clearance of protein plaques that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Though more research is necessary, this study stands as a clear sign of hope for a future cure.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice.

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