A lack of deep sleep could indicate Alzheimer’s development

A lack of deep sleep could indicate Alzheimer’s development

A recent study suggests that a warning sign may come before any symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: Adults who do not get enough deep sleep may be on their way to developing the disease.

Senior man sleeping
A lack of deep sleep may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, found that older people who experience less slow-wave sleep (in other words, deep sleep) have elevated levels of a brain protein called tau.

The findings, published in Translational Medicine, note that higher levels of tau are a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Elevated levels have also previously been associated with both brain damage and cognitive decline.

Slow-wave sleep and brain proteins

Slow-wave sleep helps people consolidate their memories and experiences, and getting enough of this type of sleep helps people wake up refreshed and energized.

In order to find out if there is a connection between a lack of deep sleep and the development of Alzheimer’s, the authors put together a study that involved 119 people aged 60 years or older.

A full 80 percent of the participants had no cognition problems, and the rest had only mild impairment. To conduct the study, researchers monitored their sleep at home over the course of a week.

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They gave each participant a portable electroencephalogram, or EEG, monitor that measured brain waves as they slumbered. The participants also wore a watch-like sensor to help track body movement.

In addition, they kept sleep logs that included how much they slept at night and whether they napped during the day.


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