London - Those who sleep badly could suffer memory problems later in life, scientists say.

Researchers found disrupted sleep is associated with the build up of deposits in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

They tested the sleep patterns of 100 people aged 45 to 80 who did not have dementia, using a device they wore at night for two weeks.

Those who spent less than 85 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping were most likely to have amyloid plaques - toxic proteins which form in the brain.

Participants who woke up more than five times an hour were also more likely to have this marker than those who slept better.

The average time in bed was eight hours, but researchers said the average sleep time was just six-and-a-half due to people waking a number of times.

A quarter of the participants had some build-up of amyloid. The experts said there is no firm evidence the amount and quality of sleep increases the odds of dementia. But if proven in further studies it could lead to new treatments based on manipulating sleep.

Dr Yo-El Ju, a neurologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, and the study’s author, said: “The association between disrupted sleep and amyloid plaques is intriguing.”

The research, which has not yet been published, will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual conference in April.

Poor sleep is associated with increased risk of illnesses including diabetes and heart disease.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “Those of us who may have to count sheep should not panic.

“The best way to reduce your risk is to eat healthily, take regular exercise, don’t smoke and get your cholesterol checked.” - Daily Mail