We spend nearly one-third of our life asleep, which has a profound effect on our bodily functions ranging from the way our genes become expressed, through various physiological processes including cardiovascular function, metabolism and immunity to the way our brain works.
Sleep is essential for human life and poor sleep can have negative effects on our health. In particular sleep deficits are prevalent in disturbances of brain health such as dementia. Studies show that subtle sleep changes can happen many years before the onset of the disease and evidence suggests that sleep may contribute mechanistically to the disease process in dementia, due to its role in essential housekeeping processes in the brain. Less is known about what makes sleep disturbed early on in people at risk of developing dementia, and how sleep deficits could contribute to the very early symptoms. Our first study funded by the Wellcome Trust aims to answer this question, studying people who are healthy volunteers, but who may or may not have an increased genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future.