Improving Sleep to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease
MentorRalph N. Martins, PhD Edith Cowen University
CollaboratorMelissa Ree, PhD The Marian Centre
This study will explore the relationship between sleep, memory and thinking, and changes in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by investigating whether improved sleep (better and longer) causes better memory and thinking, slower protein build up in the brain and slows the shrinking of the brain. The results will help us find a way to slow or stop this horrible disease. With sleep problems reported in 60 percent of adults over 65, my research will impact a significant proportion of the population.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a terrible illness which damages the brain of many older people, causing them to stop thinking clearly; to stop remembering important information about themselves, their family and their life; and to start behaving differently. These problems get so bad that daily tasks such as driving, reading, or finding the right words when speaking to someone become very difficult or impossible. We know that a particular protein builds up in the brain of a person with AD and that the brain becomes smaller, but we don’t know how to slow or stop the disease. Some scientists believe that sleep is important, but more work is needed to understand whether ‘how long’ and ‘how well’ someone usually sleeps changes how likely they are to get AD, or alters the speed at which the changes in the brain happen. My study will explore the relationship between sleep, memory and thinking, and changes in the brain, by investigating whether improved sleep (better and longer) causes improved memory and thinking, slower protein build up in the brain and slows the shrinking of the brain. Once complete, I hope that the results of my study will provide evidence for translation into a standard therapy for older adults at increased risk of AD due to sleep complaints.