Sleep Could Help Stave Off Alzheimer’s And Memory Loss, According To New Study

We’ve long known that people with Alzheimer’s disease often experience problems with their sleep. But according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, poor shut-eye in older adults may play a role in the development of the disease in the first place.

Scientists researching the potential connections between deep, restorative sleep and the protein fragment beta-amyloid recently found that poor sleep not only hinders the brain’s ability to save new memories, but also creates a channel through which this Alzheimer’s-triggering protein is able to travel and attack long-term memory storage.

“Over the past few years, the links between sleep, beta-amyloid, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease have been growing stronger,” William Jagust, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist, Alzheimer’s disease expert and co-leader of the study said in a statement. “Our study shows that this beta-amyloid deposition may lead to a vicious cycle in which sleep is further disturbed and memory impaired.”

This study is also one of the first of its kind to use human subjects, thanks to Jagust. He recruited 26 adult participants between the ages of 65 to 81 who had not yet been diagnosed with any form of dementia, or neurodegenerative, sleep or psychiatric disorders. They each received a PET scan to measure the accumulation of beta-amyloid in their brains, and were subsequently given 120 word pairs to memorize.

Each participant then slept for eight hours while an electroencephalographic test measured their brain waves. When they awoke the following morning, they received functional MRI scans to measure the activity occurring in the brain as they attempted to recall the word pairs from the night before. The results revealed that those with the highest levels of beta-amyloid residing in the medial frontal cortex not only had the poorest quality of sleep, —> Read More