Getting more than six hours of quality sleep each night may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, experts say. 

A new study, supported by Alzheimer’s Research Australia, has found a close connection between sleep patterns and the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, a process associated with the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

The research reveals that poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep are linked to a faster buildup of beta-amyloid in the brains of older adults who had no impairments in memory and thinking.

Associate Professor Stephanie Rainey-Smith from Murdoch University’s Centre for Healthy Ageing has welcomed the findings. 

“Alzheimer’s disease is a condition traditionally diagnosed in later life, but whose pathological processes commence much earlier,” she says. 

“There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but our research suggests that we should be looking at personalised sleep improvement interventions as a modifiable risk factor against Alzheimer’s with potential to delay or prevent the onset and progression of symptoms for those in the early stages of the disease.”

The longitudinal study involved 189 cognitively unimpaired adults aged 60 to 80 years, with up to six years of follow-up data including brain imaging. 

The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that lifestyle factors, such as sleep, can play a crucial role in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases. 

The research shows the potential of sleep improvement interventions as a practical approach to mitigating the risk of Alzheimer’s, offering a new glimmer of hope for those at risk of developing the debilitating condition.

The full study is available in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.