There may be a link between cognitive decline in older adults and the quality of their sleep.
Scientists at the University of California's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory compared the sleeping habits of people in their 70s with those in their 20s and discovered that, even if they rest for the same length of time, older adults experience 75 per cent less slow wave deep sleep.
This deeper state of slumber is believed to be responsible for boosting memory, a theory supported by the results of the study. People in the over 70s group performed 55 per cent worse in a test of recall.
The team now hope their research could be used to develop better treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia, believing that stimulating older adults to get more deep sleep would help boost cognitive activity.
Professor Matthew Walker, who led the investigation, said: "If sleep is a piece of the puzzle in Alzheimer's, then if we can improve the quality of their sleep, we would also hope to improve their memory as well."
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