Scientists researching the potential connections between deep, restorative sleep and the protein fragment beta-amyloid recently found that poor sleep not only hinders the brain’s ability to save new memories, but also creates a channel through which this Alzheimer’s-triggering protein is able to travel and attack long-term memory storage.
“Over the past few years, the links between sleep, beta-amyloid, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease have been growing stronger,” William Jagust, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist, Alzheimer’s disease expert and co-leader of the study said in a statement. “Our study shows that this beta-amyloid deposition may lead to a vicious cycle in which sleep is further disturbed and memory impaire
Previous research has implicated the deposits of beta-amyloid in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, because it begins destroying synapses before clumping them into plaques in the brain that lead to the death of important nerve cells. But this new study suggests that, while poor sleep creates the pathway for this nerve damage to occur, it is an entirely treatable issue. According to Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley neuroscience professor and senior author of this study, exercise, behavioral therapy and electrical stimulation of brain waves during sleep are all viable ways for young adults to increase their overnight memory — and protect against the build-up of beta-amyloid proteins.
“Sleep is helping wash away toxic proteins at night, preventing them from building up and from potentially destroying brain cells,” Walker said in a statement. “It’s providing a power cleanse for the brain.”