A recent study published in the journal iScience investigated how genetics impact sleep quality and how sleep quality may in turn impact the development of neurodegenerative disease.
The senior authors of the study have been investigating Familial Natural Short Sleep (FNSS) for over a decade. Those with FNSS have the ability to function well on four to six hours of sleep per night. This contrasts with the general recommendation for sleep duration, which is around eight hours. FNSS runs in families and appears to be linked to certain genes. One outstanding question in the field is whether sleeping efficiently, as with FNSS, may help prevent the onset of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. For many people, lack of sleep seems to accelerate the development of these conditions. However, it is unclear whether efficient sleepers, like those with FNSS, are at greater risk.
To test whether FNSS impacts Alzheimer’s disease development, the team used a mouse model. They bred mice with the genes for both the mouse equivalent of FNSS and a predisposition to Alzheimer’s. These mice developed fewer of the hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s compared to equivalent mice without the short sleeping genes. Therefore, it seems that sleeping efficiently offers some protection against the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. These results have important implications regarding potential treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
While this study focused on how sleep efficiency impacts the development of neurological disease, the results also have important implications for heart health. The AHA recently added sleep health as an essential component of measuring heart health, and sleep quantity and quality are linked to the development of cardiovascular disease.