“We have found that the sleep you’re having right now is almost like a crystal ball telling you when and how fast Alzheimer’s pathology will develop in your brain,” explained co-senior study investigator Matthew Walker, PhD, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience, and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. “The silver lining here is that there’s something we can do about it. The brain washes itself during deep sleep, and so there may be a chance to turn back the clock by getting more sleep earlier in life.”
Moreover, while previous studies have found that sleep cleanses the brain of beta-amyloid deposits, these new findings identify deep non-REM slow-wave sleep as the target of intervention against cognitive decline.
“If deep, restorative sleep can slow down this disease, we should be making it a major priority,” [researcher Joseph] Winer said. “And if physicians know about this connection, they can ask their older patients about their sleep quality and suggest sleep as a prevention strategy.”