A study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine found that older adults who have less slow-wave sleep have higher levels of the brain protein tau. Elevated tau is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease and has been linked to brain damage and cognitive decline. Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) is the deepest stage of non-REM sleep and is the hardest stage from which to wake up from. This stage of sleep is the deep sleep you need to consolidate memories and wake up feeling refreshed.
Silent symptoms of Alzheimer’s can start appearing in the brain for up to 20 years before the characteristic symptoms of memory loss and confusion begin impacting daily life. Studying a person’s sleep patterns could provide a non-invasive way to screen adults for Alzheimer’s before a diagnosis or just as they begin to exhibit problems with memory and thinking.
Researchers studied 119 participants all over the age of 60, with 80% of normal cognition and 20% mildly cognitively impaired. Over the course of seven days, participants wore a portable EEG monitor while they slept to monitor their brain waves and body movement. Participants also kept a sleep log to note their regular bedtime sleep sessions, as well as daytime napping. Researchers found that decreased SWS coincided with higher levels of tau in the brain. These findings suggest that receiving poor-quality sleep as you age could be a potential risk factor declining brain health.
Researchers have uncovered part of the explanation for why poor sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. They found that older people who have less slow-wave sleep — the deep sleep you need to …