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Redefining ‘healthy longevity’ – quality sleep may prevent onset of Alzheimer’s

Two gene mutations associated with the Familial Natural Short Sleep phenomenon (FNSS) could be linked to stalling Alzheimer’s Disease. 

People with FNSS, who need to sleep only four to six hours a night, developed fewer hallmarks associated with Alzheimer’s, University of California San Francisco scientists found

“We used the familial natural short sleep mutation in mice to show that these mutations can significantly protect mice (and likely humans) from Alzheimer’s pathology,” said co-senior author, professor Ying-Hui Fu.

Rather than the quantity of sleep, it’s the time spent sleeping efficiently that is important. 

“My research shows that it is not just ‘the hours’ but more about ‘the quality’ of sleep that we really need to pay attention to,” she said.

“With Alzheimer’s as an example, our results showed that high sleep quality can significantly reduce the chances of getting diseases.”

The mice with the two FNSS mutations showed a reduced pathology of tau build-up. 

Tau is a protein that helps build the skeleton of nerve cells (neurons).In Alzheimer’s, an abnormal amount of tau accumulates in the cells, causing them to break down. 

“Our body works hard at helping us remain healthy while we sleep by performing various tasks," said Fu.

"When we don’t have good sleep (quantity and quality) on a long-term basis, our body cannot perform its functions to its best, thus causing all kinds of problems including Alzheimer’s.”

The precise mechanisms behind the development of Alzheimer’s and the mutation’s protective properties are still unclear. The results, however, are promising. 

“This work opens the door to a new understanding of how to delay and possibly prevent a lot of diseases,” said Fu.

“Instead of trying to live to a 100 years old but spend 30 years or more fighting against diseases, we should aim for living to a 100 years old and stay healthy for 90 or more years.

"I think this is what ‘healthy longevity’ should mean.”

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