There is still no cure for any form of dementia, so our best bet is to do everything we can to prevent it in the first place.
And we recently learned that walking three times a week, playing music, and eating a Mediterranean-style diet can help keep your brain healthy as you age, and new research published June 1 in the journal PLOS Biology adds another helpful brain tip to your arsenal. Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, a deep sleep.
Penn State University scientists have discovered that sleep-dependent brain activity, the kind that occurs during deep, restful non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, can help the body secrete toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
A healthy gut can help you get deep, high-quality sleep, so be sure to load your diet with these foods that promote good bacteria.
Extensive research suggests that one way Alzheimer’s disease develops is when levels of amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins build up in the brain. This often occurs over 10 to 20 years before an official diagnosis.
And this isn’t the first research to hint at protein burden in the brain and the link to sleep. In 2018, scientists found that a single night of sleep deprivation increases the load of amyloid proteins in the brain.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can pass this waste out of the body through the glymphatic system, which is part of the central nervous system.
Glial cells in the brain combine with blood vessels to help protect nerve cells from physical and chemical damage. If the glymphatic system cannot effectively drain the “brain waste”, the extracellular accumulation of these proteins can develop into Alzheimer’s disease.
But deep sleep may help the brain get rid of these toxins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. During non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, the kind that occurs when it’s really hard to wake up because you’re “too far”, the brain produces slow, steady electrical waves that act as an internal cleaning mechanism.
The study linked the association between global resting-state brain activity and cerebrospinal fluid flow to Alzheimer’s disease.
This finding highlights the potential role of low-frequency (<0.1 Hz) resting-state neurodynamics and physiology in neurodegenerative diseases, presumably due to its sleep-dependent movement of cerebrospinal fluid flow to flush toxins from the brain, said Xiao Liu, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Penn State University. The study authors caution that this is not a cause-and-effect scenario, but they recommend adding sleep analysis to the Alzheimer's disease detection protocol.