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Neuromolecular Med. 2012 Sep;14(3):194-204. doi: 10.1007/s12017-012-8181-2. Epub 2012 May 3.

Sleep disturbances in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD) are the two most common neurodegenerative disorders and exact a burden on our society greater than cardiovascular disease and cancer combined. While cognitive and motor symptoms are used to define AD and PD, respectively, patients with both disorders exhibit sleep disturbances including insomnia, hypersomnia and excessive daytime napping. The molecular basis of perturbed sleep in AD and PD may involve damage to hypothalamic and brainstem nuclei that control sleep-wake cycles. Perturbations in neurotransmitter and hormone signaling (e.g., serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin) and the neurotrophic factor BDNF likely contribute to the disease process. Abnormal accumulations of neurotoxic forms of amyloid β-peptide, tau and α-synuclein occur in brain regions involved in the regulation of sleep in AD and PD patients, and are sufficient to cause sleep disturbances in animal models of these neurodegenerative disorders. Disturbed regulation of sleep often occurs early in the course of AD and PD, and may contribute to the cognitive and motor symptoms. Treatments that target signaling pathways that control sleep have been shown to retard the disease process in animal models of AD and PD, suggesting a potential for such interventions in humans at risk for or in the early stages of these disorders.

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