For many years scientists have wondered if there is a connection between sleep and dementia, and now researchers at the University of East Anglia have set up a special sleep unit to explore the possibility.
There are over three quarter of a million people living with dementia in the United Kingdom and that figure is set to rise by over a million in six years. It is not uncommon for people suffering from dementia to experience disturbed sleep. However, scientists at UAE’s School of Health Sciences are working to discover if Alzheimer’s may bring on restless sleep or, on the other hand, if insomnia is an early sign of the condition.
Initially, the sleep unit will explore if healthy individuals with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s may be more prone to disrupted sleep and how it impacts their body clock.
Experts believe poor sleeping habits may be an indicator of Alzheimer’s as well as other brain disorders. All in all, you need a restful sleep for good overall brain health, affecting such areas as cognition, memory and concentration. The aim of the study is to determine if the disease affects how much you sleep or is lack of sleep contributing to the illness.
In the course of the trial, subjects volunteering for the study will spend the night in a sleep unit fashioned like a hotel room with its own bathroom. They will be supervised by sleep experts, where sensors will monitor their brain activity. Scientists will also test their cognition, balance, attention and co-ordination during their stay at the unit.
Subjects will have undergone screening, encompassing psychological and genetic tests. Volunteers will be asked to keep a sleep diary and wear a device on their wrist, monitoring how much sleep activity they get at home.
They will then engage in ongoing lab sessions over three nights which may include taking various short naps or staying awake for the whole night once, to assess how they respond to sleep deprivation.
According to researchers, the lab sessions will help scientists get a better understanding of how sleep and the body clock may be connected to the genetic possibility of Alzheimer’s.
They feel their findings may be useful in developing other studies which could be used in the fight against the disease, affecting thousands of people across the country.