A major new study investigating the possible links between dementia and sleep is being launched by the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Researchers are looking people over the age of 40 to take part in the new project. Sleep disturbances are common in dementia. But it is not yet known whether Alzheimer’s causes sleep problems, or whether sleep problems could be an early predictor of the disease.
The research team hope that treating sleep disturbances early on could help slow down the progression of the disease – particularly as there are no other treatments currently available.
Among the areas the team will be investigating are whether people with an increased genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s could be more vulnerable to sleep loss and how their body clock is affected.
Volunteers spending a night in the unit can expect to stay in a modern hotel-like en-suite room. But their every move will be overlooked by a team of sleep specialists.
They will also be hooked up to sensors measuring brain activity and take part in thinking, memory, balance, co-ordination, and attention tests throughout their stay.
Lead researcher Dr Alpar Lazar, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said:
“In this study, we will look at healthy people who may, or may not, have an increased genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future."
He said that volunteers will undertake a screening process which would involve genetic and psychological testing, wearing a small wrist-worn device to measure sleep and activity at home, and keeping a sleep diary.
The University has been involved in a number of high profile dementia research projects.
In 2018 it developed a mobile phone game which could detect people at risk of Alzheimer's - according to new research.
Researchers studied gaming data from an app called Sea Hero Quest. It showed that people who are genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease take less efficient routes to navigate levels of the game
Anyone interested in taking part in the new sleep study is asked to email A.Lazar@uea.ac.uk. More details at the UEA website.