Excessive napping could be a sign of Alzheimer's disease

Senior woman dreaming and holding book. Close up.
Excessive napping could be a warning sign for Alzheimer's disease. [Photo: Getty]

Napping during the day could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.

Many of us take occasional naps during the day, especially following a night of interrupted sleep.

But doing so excessively is a warning sign, because Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain cells which keep us aware during the day. The degenerative brain condition causes a buildup of a toxic form of protein called tau in the brain, which destroys these cells.

This is according to new research conducted by scientists at the University of California and San Francisco University.

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For the study, published yesterday, scientists compared the brains of 13 deceased Alzheimer’s patients with seven healthy control subjects.

They measured Alzheimer's pathology, tau protein levels and neuron numbers in three separate areas of the brain known for promoting wakefuless.

The Alzheimer’s patients had tau build-up in all three of these brain regions – and some of them had lost up to 75% of their neurons.

The research could inform and possibly improve the way Alzheimer’s is treated in future, because it highlights the impact the build-up of tau protein could have on the brain.

Previously, researchers had focussed on another toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s which is known as beta-amyloid.

"Our new evidence for tau-linked degeneration of the brain's wakefulness centres provides a compelling neurobiological explanation for those findings," said study senior author Lea T. Grinberg, MD, PhD.

"It suggests we need to be much more focused on understanding the early stages of tau accumulation in these brain areas in our ongoing search for Alzheimer's treatments."

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Dementia, an umbrella term for Alzheimer’s and associated neurodegenerative conditions, is the most feared health condition in the UK, according to Alzheimer’s Society.

For those who fear developing the condition, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, including exercising regularly and consuming spinach.