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Extra Sleep May Stall Alzheimer's Disease

Update Date: Apr 23, 2015 08:59 PM EDT

Extra sleep could help treat Alzheimer's disease, according to new research.

Previous studies have linked sleep duration to memory quality, but the latest findings suggest extra sleep can also help treat neurodegenerative diseases.

The latest study involved three groups of fruit flies, which scientists manipulated by disabling different critical memory genes.

One group developed a condition with similar characteristics to Alzheimer's disease. Another group had problems reinforcing new connections that to encode memories, and the third group had too many neuronal connections.

"Our data showed that extra sleep can handle any of these problems," senior author Paul Shaw, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology, said in a news release. "It has to be the right kind of sleep, and we're not sure how to induce this kind of slumber in the human brain yet, but our research suggests that if we can learn how, it could have significant therapeutic potential."

The study revealed that three to four hours of extra sleep daily over as little as two days helped restore memory capacity in all three groups.

"In all of these flies, the lost or disabled gene still does not work properly," lead author Stephane Dissel, PhD, a senior scientist in Shaw's lab, said in a statement. "Sleep can't bring that missing gene back, but it finds ways to work around the physiological problem."

The findings were published April 23 in the journal Current Biology.

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