Sleep alteration is a hallmark of ageing and emerges as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). While the fine-tuned coalescence of sleep microstructure elements may influence age-related cognitive trajectories, its association with AD processes is not fully established. Here, we investigated whether the coupling of spindles and slow waves is associated with early amyloid-beta (Aβ) brain burden, a hallmark of AD neuropathology, and cognitive change over 2 years in 100 healthy individuals in late-midlife (50-70y; 68 women). We found that, in contrast to other sleep metrics, earlier occurrence of spindles on slow-depolarisation slow waves is associated with higher medial prefrontal cortex Aβ burden (p=0.014, r2β*=0.06), and is predictive of greater longitudinal memory decline (p=0.032, r2β*=0.07). These findings unravel early links between sleep, AD-related processes and cognition and suggest that altered coupling of sleep microstructure elements, key to its mnesic function, contributes to poorer brain and cognitive trajectories in ageing.
NOTE: This study used the CamNtech Actiwatch 7 (AW7) which was discontinued in 2012 – Direct replacement is MotionWatch 8.