Sleep patterns can predict the accumulation of Alzheimer’s pathology proteins later in life, according to a new study of older men and women published in JNeurosci. These findings could lead to new sleep-based early diagnosis and prevention measures in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a news release published on the Society for Neuroscience’s website.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with disrupted sleep and the accumulation of tau and amyloid-? proteins in the brain, which can emerge long before characteristic memory impairments appear. Two types of hippocampal sleep waves, slow oscillations and sleep spindles, are synced in healthy individuals, but not in Alzheimer’s patients.

Matthew Walker, Joseph Winer, and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues found a decrease in slow oscillations/sleep spindle synchronization was associated with higher tau, while reduced slow-wave-activity amplitude was associated with higher amyloid-? levels.

The researchers also found that a decrease in sleep quantity throughout aging, from the 50s through 70s, was associated with higher levels of amyloid-? and tau later in life. This means that changes in brain activity during sleep and sleep quantity during these time frames could serve as a warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease, allowing for early preventive care.

Original Paper: Winer JR, Mander BA, Helfrich RF, et al. Sleep as a potential biomarker of tau and ?-amyloid burden in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2019:

Source: Society for Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience