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Poor sleep, neurovascular injury and cognitive decline

Sleep is a fundamental biological requirement for human health. Poor sleep quality and increased sleep fragmentation increases the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. More specifically, poor sleep quality is considered to be an underlying cause of cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD), a common feature of the ageing brain that affects the small vessels of the brain. It is a slowly progressing disease that gradually lead to cognitive impairment, physical disabilities and emotion change with ageing.

The sleep-related mechanisms promoting CSVD are not yet clear, but it is thought that marked increases in blood pressure and heart rate via activation of the sympathetic nervous system that occurred during sleep arousals in ageing people is a key factor. Because sleep quality decreases with normal ageing, and older adults take longer to fall asleep, have lighter sleep and more frequent arousals that fragment sleep, the primary aim of this project is to determine the role of nocturnal cardiovascular surges in the development of small vessel vasculopathy in CSVD that leads to pre-clinical neurological dysfunction.