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The role of deep sleep in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease

May 22, 2023

Deep non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep may serve as a protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, according to a recent study.

Researchers examined the sleep patterns of older individuals without dementia and found a significant association between NREM sleep quality and cognitive performance.

Participants with better NREM sleep quality demonstrated superior cognitive function, including memory and attention. Moreover, NREM sleep quality was independently linked to AD pathology, suggesting its potential protective effect. NREM sleep acts as a “cognitive reserve” factor, enhancing the brain’s ability to cope with the damaging effects of AD.

By facilitating memory consolidation and removing harmful substances from the brain, NREM sleep could delay cognitive decline associated with AD.

This research highlights the importance of quality sleep for maintaining cognitive health and suggests that prioritising NREM sleep could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Ensuring adequate and restorative sleep, particularly deep NREM sleep, may play a vital role in protecting against AD and preserving cognitive function.

Deep sleep: Safeguarding cognitive function from Alzheimer’s

 

Here are our key takeaways from the study, NREM sleep as a novel protective cognitive reserve factor in the face of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.

NREM Sleep Protects Against AD

 

Deep non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which is a stage of sleep characterised by slow brain waves, may play a crucial role in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology.

This finding suggests that the quality of sleep one experiences during this stage may have a significant impact on cognitive health and AD risk.

NREM sleep improves cognitive function

 

The study found a strong correlation between the quality of NREM sleep and cognitive function.

Participants who had better NREM sleep quality demonstrated improved cognitive abilities, including memory and attention.

This highlights the importance of obtaining sufficient and restorative sleep, particularly during the NREM stage, for optimal cognitive performance.

NREM sleep and AD pathology

 

The relationship between NREM sleep quality and AD pathology was found to be independent of other factors.

This means that even after accounting for variables such as age, gender, and overall health, the link between NREM sleep quality and AD pathology remained significant.

This suggests that the influence of NREM sleep on AD may be direct and not solely attributable to other confounding factors.

NREM sleep as cognitive reserve

 

NREM sleep acts as a “cognitive reserve” factor, which means it enhances the brain’s ability to withstand and compensate for the damaging effects of AD pathology.

By promoting efficient memory consolidation and clearing toxic substances from the brain, NREM sleep may help protect against cognitive decline associated with AD.

This finding underscores the importance of healthy sleep patterns in preserving cognitive function.

Prioritise NREM sleep for AD protection

 

The study’s findings highlight the potential significance of prioritising and optimising deep NREM sleep for reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

By ensuring adequate and restorative sleep, particularly during the NREM stage, individuals may have a better chance of preserving cognitive function and reducing their vulnerability to AD.

These findings emphasise the role of sleep hygiene and maintaining a healthy sleep routine as potential protective measures against the onset of AD.


Reference: Zavecz, Z., Shah, V.D., Murillo, O.G. et al. NREM sleep as a novel protective cognitive reserve factor in the face of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. BMC Med 21, 156 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-023-02811-z