Pulling an all-nighter – even just once – causes a spike in levels of a protein in the brain thought to trigger Alzeihmer's disease, research warns.
A study of healthy men in their twenties found those who missed an entire night of sleep saw levels of tau shoot up by almost a fifth.
Scientists have long warned of the link between poor sleep and the build-up of tau in the brain – a hallmark of Azleihmer's.
But the Swedish researchers behind the study were shocked by how damaging just one night of sleeplessness could be.
They said their research should serve as a warning to students and employees who stay up all night to finish a work or university project.
Researchers are warning employees and students against pulling an all-nighter to complete a project. They found a night of sleeplessness causes a spike in levels of a protein in the brain thought to trigger Alzeihmer's disease (stock)
But further trials are needed to confirm the link, as the small study did not test whether tau levels went back to normal once participants went back to their regular sleep pattern.
The body flushes away plaques in the brain while people sleep, but a lack of shut-eye robs it of the chance to do so.
Charities say it is currently unknown whether short-term spikes in tau can raise the risk of developing Alzeihmer's.
Clumps of tau in the brain, called tangles and plaques, disrupt the functioning of brain cells and eventually kills them.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
EARLY SYMPTOMS:Loss of short-term memory Disorientation Behavioral changes Mood swings Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call
LATER SYMPTOMS:Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior Eventually lose ability to walk May have problems eating The majority will eventually need 24-hour