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Link seen between sleep duration, quality and Alzheimer's disease biomarker

Poor sleep quality may impact Alzheimer's disease onset and progression, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who examined the association between sleep variables and a common indicator for Alzheimer's disease in older adults.

The researchers found that reports of shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with a greater beta-amyloid burden, a biomarker that is a hallmark of the disease.

The results of the study are featured online in the October issue of JAMA Neurology.

"These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people," said Adam Spira, lead author of the study and a professor with the School of Public Health's Department of Mental Health. "To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer's disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer disease."

Spira cautioned that the findings do not demonstrate a causal link between poor sleep and Alzheimer's disease, and that longitudinal studies with objective sleep measures are needed to further examine whether poor sleep contributes to or accelerates Alzheimer's disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have the Alzheimer's disease, with first symptoms appearing after age 60. Previous studies have linked disturbed sleep to cognitive impairment in older people.

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