Is there something that we can do to keep Alzheimer's symptoms at bay? Scientists say good quality sleep may help.

Deep sleep can protect older adults against memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease, according to a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

Deep sleep, also known as non-REM slow-wave sleep, can act as a buffer against cognitive decline by putting up resistance against the protein in the brain, called beta-amyloid, which is linked to memory loss.

How does beta-amyloid harm the brain?

The protein's presence in the brain form clumps called amyloid plaques, which disrupt the communication between the brain nerve cells and contribute to the death of these cells. This eventually leads to memory loss.

Previous studies have shown that faster accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain is linked to poor sleep quality, Berkeley News reported. In the latest study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, researchers underscore that high amounts of deep, slow-wave sleep could act as a safeguard against memory decline in older adults with significant amounts of Alzheimer's disease pathology.

Researchers hope the study will open new avenues of more research into the subject.

"With a certain level of brain pathology, you're not destined for cognitive symptoms or memory issues," Zsófia Zavecz, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science, told Berkeley News. "People should be aware that, despite having a certain level of pathology, there are certain lifestyle factors that will help moderate and decrease the effects. One of those factors is sleep and, specifically, deep sleep."

People believe that education, exercise and socializing can help protect the brain from damage and keep the mind strong. But that may not protect you from Alzheimer's.

"If we believe that sleep is so critical for memory, could sleep be one of those missing pieces in the explanatory puzzle that would tell us exactly why two people with the same amounts of vicious, severe amyloid pathology have very different memory?" said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology and senior author of the study. "If the findings supported the hypothesis, it would be thrilling, because sleep is something we can change. It is a modifiable factor."

Researchers believe the results will open up possibilities for long-term research in this field, which could have significant implications in the future.

"One of the advantages of this result is the application to a huge population right above the age of 65," Zavecz explained. "By sleeping better and doing your best to practice good sleep hygiene, which is easy to research online, you can gain the benefit of this compensatory function against this type of Alzheimer's pathology."

Deep Sleep
With so many factors that can disrupt your sleep, it is difficult to get a full eight hours of sleep every night. GhostBed