Importance: Increasing evidence suggests a relationship between poor sleep and the risk of developing Alzheimer disease. A previous study found an effect of sleep on β-amyloid (Aβ), which is a key protein in Alzheimer disease pathology.
Objective: To determine the effect of 1 night of total sleep deprivation on cerebrospinal fluid Aβ42 protein levels in healthy middle-aged men.
Design, setting, and participants: The Alzheimer, Wakefulness, and Amyloid Kinetics (AWAKE) study at the Radboud Alzheimer Center, a randomized clinical trial that took place between June 1, 2012, and October 1, 2012. Participants were cognitively normal middle-aged men (40-60 years of age) with normal sleep (n = 26) recruited from the local population.
Interventions: Participants were randomized to 1 night with unrestricted sleep (n = 13) or 1 night of total sleep deprivation (24 hours of wakefulness) (n = 13).
Main outcomes and measures: Sleep was monitored using continuous polysomnographic recording from 3 pm until 10 am. Cerebrospinal fluid samples were collected using an intrathecal catheter at defined times to compare cerebral Aβ42 concentrations between evening and morning.
Results: A night of unrestricted sleep led to a 6% decrease in Aβ42 levels of 25.3 pg/mL (95% CI [0.94, 49.6], P = .04), whereas sleep deprivation counteracted this decrease. When accounting for the individual trajectories of Aβ42 over time, a difference of 75.8 pg/mL of Aβ42 was shown between the unrestricted sleep and sleep deprivation group (95% CI [3.4, 148.4], P = .04). The individual trajectories of evening and morning Aβ42 concentrations differed between the unrestricted sleep and sleep deprivation groups (P = .04) in contrast to stable Aβ40, tau, and total protein levels.
Conclusions and relevance: Sleep deprivation, or prolonged wakefulness, interferes with a physiological morning decrease in Aβ42. We hypothesize that chronic sleep deprivation increases cerebral Aβ42 levels, which elevates the risk of Alzheimer disease.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01194713.