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The Brain Becomes Less Effective at Generating Deep Sleep with Age

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sleep disruption is a normal process of aging; researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, set out to determine whether seniors need less sleep or need the same amount of sleep but are unable to generate it – and whether this sleep loss is related to dementia. In their review, they note the correlation between sleep degeneration and cognitive decline. “The parts of the brain deteriorating the earliest,” explains researcher Bryce Mander, “are the same regions that give us deep sleep.” Generating the brain waves and chemical compounds necessary for deep sleep and the natural sleep cycle prove difficult for aging brains. During these slow waves, healthy brains consolidate short-term memories from the hippocampus into long-term memories in the prefrontal cortex; without these waves, memory suffers. Galanin and orexin, two neurochemicals involved in sleep stability, also tend to be poorly regulated in older adults, which furthers sleep difficulties. Lead researcher Matthew Walker warns against sleeping pills as the solution, however, clarifying that the drug-induced sedation does not have the same benefits as sleep. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see… sleep as a new pathway for helping remedy that,” he stated, suggesting future use of electrical stimulation as an alternative to sleeping medication for increasing sleep quality and length as a preventative measure for diseases such as dementia. “We must find better treatments for restoring healthy sleep in older adults, and that is now one of our dedicated research missions.”

SOURCE: News Medical: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20170406/Study-shows-the-aging-brain-has-trouble-generating-brain-waves-required-for-deep-sleep.aspx

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Neuron: http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30088-0

DATE RETRIEVED: April 7, 2017

Recruiting participants for new project

We’re researching how businesses can engage people with dementia meaningfully and respectfully in the design, testing, and commercialization of apps intended for their use. For this research, we’re looking for people living with dementia to use, test, and provide feedback on a digital memory aid currently being developed. Follow the link for more information.