Sleep-wake cycles are known to be disrupted in people with neurodegenerative disorders. These findings are now supported by data from animal models for some of these disorders, raising the question of whether the disrupted sleep/circadian regulation contributes to the loss of neural function. As circadian rhythms and sleep consolidation also break down with normal aging, changes in these may be part of what makes aging a risk factor for disorders like Alzheimer's disease (AD). Mechanisms underlying the connection between circadian/sleep dysregulation and neurodegeneration remain unclear, but several recent studies provide interesting possibilities. While mechanistic analysis is under way, it is worth considering treatment of circadian/sleep disruption as a means to alleviate symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders.
Keywords: Alzheimer's; Huntington's; Parkinson's; aging; circadian rhythms; neurodegeneration; sleep.
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