Stanford Medicine’s SCOPE blog examines the findings of a senior sleep study that showed slow brain wave activity at sleep onset was common.

Sometimes scientists discover the best new stuff by disproving their own hypotheses. This seems to be what happened for a group of sleep researchers who recently set out to study sleep in the senior population.

The plan was for the researchers to set up high-tech equipment in the bedrooms of 150 older adults and examine a phenomenon known as slow brain wave activity at the onset of sleep. Slow brain wave activity, which is measured using EEG testing recorded from electrodes placed on the scalp, has long been associated with cognitive impairment in seniors and considered a sign of pathological aging, according to Ruth O’Hara, PhD, a Stanford sleep researcher.

“We predicted that we would see increased slow wave activity at sleep onset to be associated with cognitive impairment,” O’Hara told me. “But we actually found quite the opposite: We found that increased slow wave activity at sleep onset was associated with better cognitive function.”

Results of the study, which were published today in the journal SLEEP, showed that slow brain wave activity among the study participants at sleep onset was relatively common, that it was not associated with poorer performance in cognition and that instead, those individuals actually had better performance on a simple reading task.

Read the full story at