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Deep Sleep Reduces the Plaques that Cause Alzheimer’s

Quality sleep cleans the brain

Two recent studies confirmed the importance of deep Non-Rem sleep to the overall health of our brain.  Both reports suggested the strong association between sleep deprivation, aging and Alzheimer’s disease.   During deep quiet sleep, the proteins and waste products from brain activity are more rapidly cleared from the circulating brain fluid.  It has been shown that these waste products are the source of the proteins responsible for producing the beta amyloid Tau (Tau) plaques found in Alzheimer patients.  The system called the Glymphatic System is responsible for circulating the nutrients to the brain and disposes of the toxic products through specialized cells called astrocytes.

Researcher’s at the National Institute of Health examined the brain’s build up of the amyloid protein in 20 healthy individuals who were sleep deprived.  What they found was a significant build up of this waste protein after 31 hours of sleep deprivation.

Neurologists at the University of Rochester using laboratory mice showed that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) clearance of the brain waste products was found to be most active during deep non-rem sleep. This study showed that the process of sleeping was not enough to remove the Tau producing proteins.  Deep restful (non-rem) sleep was needed to cleanse the brain of its toxins and protect it from future damage.

Greater CSF perfusion during sleep

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine knew that older patients generally had less deep non-rem sleep.  So, it was not a surprise when they found them to have greater levels of Tau proteins in the brain. But what about those seniors with adequate amounts of deep quiet sleep? Would they be found to have signifacantly less levels of Tau in their brains?

119 people ages 60 and older were examined via PET Scan or spinal tap and sleep tests.  The results showed that those that experienced less deep restorative sleep (Non-Rem Sleep) had the highest levels of Tau in the brain.

The conclusion was that it wasn’t the total amount of sleep, but the percentage of deep quality sleep that affected the outcome.  “The people with increased Tau pathology were actually sleeping more at night and napping more during the day, but they were not getting as good quality sleep”.

Richard Hamburg MD, DDS

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