Socioeconomic Status + Sleep Deprivation = Alzheimer’s?

BY: CLAIRE KIM

According to research done by Jama Network Open, “For each one-point increase on the scale of socioeconomic deprivation, there [is] an 8 percent increase in the odds for Alzheimer’s brain pathology.” Alzheimer’s and Socioeconomic Status… how do they relate?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that destroys certain cognitive functions and results in memory loss. Symptoms of this disease often develop in later years of age, primarily in the mid-60s, as the brain starts to grow weaker with time. Medical researchers have hypothesized that tau-proteins, one of two prominent molecules involved in contracting this disease, tend to more readily spread when the brain is in such a vulnerable condition. So while age and time have been able to gain a decent justification on its part as a factor in developing Alzheimer’s, how has socioeconomic status been explained?

Well, there seems to be a correlation between socioeconomic status and inadequate sleep patterns, sleep deprivation to be more specific.

Hale B & Hale L, information researchers under the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, concisely explain this correlation in their joint article called Is justice good for your sleep?. “The very experience of living in poverty coupled with the increasing frailty of sleep architecture puts older adults who are poor at high risk for having sleep problems. In this sense, sleep problems are less a behavior of choice and are instead rooted in the social and structural disadvantages that these older adults live with.”

Understanding this relationship between poverty and sleep deprivation is an effective segue into the impacts of sleep deprivation directly on mental health, specifically the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

As mentioned above, tau proteins are one of the two main proteins involved in triggering Alzheimer’s. The second protein involved is called β-amyloid (Aβ), and quite frankly, this protein actually has a far greater impact in instigating Alzheimer’s than tau proteins themselves. Tau proteins tend to be more proactive in driving brain damage and cognitive decline, while β-amyloids tend to have a direct impact on Alzheimer’s more than any other neuro dissonance.

The process of the effects of sleep deprivation on Alzheimer’s is abstract, however, it can be relatively summed up through scientific research presented by the Science Magazine… “The sleep-wake cycle regulates interstitial fluid (ISF) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of β-amyloid (Aβ) that accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Furthermore, chronic sleep deprivation (SD) increases Aβ plaques.”

This statement is truly only one dimension of the breadth of research conducted by neurologists and neuroscientists. And considering the complexity of the brain, defining the exact domino effects of socioeconomic status and sleep deprivation on Alzheimer’s will forever be explored as more advanced technology develops in the future. I am excited to see the next few theories…

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