Lack of sleep may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study featured on Medical News Today. Research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health suggests that lack of sleep or poor sleep quality may be linked to an increased buildup of beta-amyloid plaques a major indicator of Alzheimer’s in the brains of older adults.

During the study, researchers analyzed self-reported sleep data from 70 adults with a mean age of 76 who did not currently show signs of dementia. Imaging techniques were used to measure beta-amyloid deposition in the brain. The imaging showed that shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality were linked to an increase in beta-amyloid buildup. According to the study authors, these results “…are consistent with those from animal research in which sleep deprivation increased interstitial fluid beta-amyloid levels.”

Although more research is needed to determine whether or not better sleep patterns can prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, the researchers believe that these findings could have significant public health implications. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and almost half of older adults with Alzheimer’s report symptoms that are related to insomnia.

According to the study authors, “Because late-life sleep disturbance can be treated, interventions to improve sleep or maintain healthy sleep among older adults may help prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease to the extent that poor sleep promotes Alzheimer’s onset and progression.”