A mouse study has found that mice (genetically engineered for Alzheimer’s) who were sleep deprived for eight weeks, not only showed significant cognitive impairment, but also showed a significant increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed tangles. The other main characteristic of Alzheimer’s, amyloid-beta plaques, was not affected.
The findings are consistent with growing evidence of a link between sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s, and suggests that chronic sleep disturbance accelerates Alzheimer’s pathology, and should be treated.
The sleep-deprived mice were given 20 hours of light each day, while the control mice were kept on a schedule of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
(2014). Sleep deprivation impairs memory, tau metabolism, and synaptic integrity of a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease with plaques and tangles.
Neurobiology of Aging. 35(8), 1813 - 1820.