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Sleep as a predictor of Alzheimer’s disease

What would you do if you knew how long you had until Alzheimer’s set in?

Neuroscientists Matthew Walker and Joseph Winer have found a way to estimate, with some degree of accuracy, a time frame for when Alzheimer’s is most likely to strike in a person’s lifetime.

“We have found that the sleep you’re having right now is almost like a crystal ball telling you when and how fast Alzheimer’s pathology will develop in your brain,” said Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the paper published Sept. 3, in the journal Current Biology.

“The silver lining is that there’s something we can do about it,” he added. “The brain washes itself during deep sleep, so there may be the chance to turn back the clock by getting more sleep earlier in life.”

“If deep, restorative sleep can slow down this disease, we should be making it a major priority,” Winer said. “And if physicians know about this connection, they can ask their older patients about their sleep quality and suggest sleep as a prevention strategy.”

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