New research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that deep sleep may help protect against memory loss in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Deep sleep can act as a “cognitive reserve factor” that increases resilience against beta-amyloid, a protein linked to dementia-related memory loss.
Sleep disruption leads to the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain
Previous studies have shown that disrupted sleep leads to faster beta-amyloid accumulation in the brain. However, the latest research indicates that increased amounts of deep sleep can prevent cognitive decline in individuals with high levels of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. This finding could potentially have significant implications in mitigating the devastating outcomes of dementia.
According to PhD researcher at UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, Zsófia Zavecz, individuals with brain pathology cannot avoid cognitive symptoms and memory problems. Zavecz emphasizes the importance of certain lifestyle factors, particularly sleep, specifically deep sleep, in mitigating and reducing the effects of brain pathology.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, damages memory pathways and impairs daily functioning. About one in nine individuals aged 65 and above have this progressive disease, with numbers expected to rise as the baby boomers age. Researchers have focused on the relationship between beta-amyloid deposits and Alzheimer’s and their impact on memory. The amount of deep sleep a person gets has been found to predict the rate of beta-amyloid buildup in the brain, which is associated with dementia. Factors like education, physical activity, and social engagement contribute to cognitive resilience but are difficult to change retroactively.
Individuals can counteract Alzheimer’s by having adequate sleep
Sleep researchers, including Matthew Walker from UC Berkeley, have become interested in cognitive reserve. Walker suggests that if sleep is crucial for memory, it may help explain why individuals with similar levels of amyloid pathology experience varying degrees of memory loss.
By prioritizing quality sleep and following recommended sleep hygiene practices, easily available through online research, individuals can harness the advantageous compensatory effect to counteract Alzheimer’s pathology.