Uninterrupted Zs are the key to memory formation, according to a recent study reported on Neurosciencenews.com.
Conducted by researchers from Stanford University, the study made use of mice as test subjects and employed "optogenetics," an innovative procedure that allowed researchers to fragment the sleep of the mice without actually waking them up.
The researchers found that the mice whose sleep had been interrupted were less likely to remember and recognize an object that they had been exposed to before, leading them to conclude that continuous sleep is essential for the formation of memories.
Sleep patterns have also been shown to have a direct link to the formation of Alzheimer's disease.
In a separate study, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that a prolonged period of sleep deficit led to an increase in amyloid beta plaque—the principal biomarker of Alzheimer's disease—in the brains of mice.
In fact, the most sleep-deprived mice in the study had an amyloid beta level that was 25% higher than normal.
People who suffer from Alzheimer's generally have difficulty sleeping which, according to this research, serves to accelerate the progression of the disease. Scientists are currently creating studies that would allow them to test these conclusions out on human subjects.