Having trouble falling asleep predicts cognitive impairment in later life

Results show that having trouble falling asleep in 2002 was associated with cognitive impairment in 2016. Specifically, more frequent trouble falling asleep predicted poorer episodic memory, executive function, language, processing speed, and visuospatial performance. Further analysis found that associations between sleep initiation and later cognition were partially explained by both depressive symptoms and vascular diseases in 2014 for all domains except episodic memory, which was only partially explained by depressive symptoms.

“While there is growing evidence for a link between insomnia and cognitive impairment in older adults, it has been difficult to interpret the nature of these associations given how differently both insomnia and cognitive impairment can present across individuals,” said lead author Afsara Zaheed, a graduate student in clinical science within the department of psychology at the University of Michigan. “By investigating associations between specific insomnia complaints and cognition over time using strong measures of cognitive ability, we hoped to gain additional clarity on whether and how these different sleep problems may lead to poor cognitive outcomes.”

Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep. Daytime symptoms include fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and having low motivation or energy.

The study analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, which involved 2,496 adults who were at least 51 years of age. In 2002 they reported the frequency of experiencing insomnia symptoms. In 2016 the participants’ cognition was assessed as part of the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol and operationalized with a comprehensive neuropsychological battery tapping episodic memory, executive function, language, visuoconstruction, and processing speed. Analyses controlled for sociodemographics and baseline global cognitive performance.

“These results are important given the lack of currently available treatments for late-life cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” said Zaheed. “Sleep health and sleep behaviors are often modifiable. These results suggest that regular screening for insomnia symptoms may help with tracking and identifying people with trouble falling asleep in mid-to-late life who might be at risk for developing cognitive impairments later in life. Additional intervention research is needed to determine whether intervening on insomnia symptoms can help prevent or slow the progression of cognitive impairments in later life.”

Top Articles

Parasitic worms cause cancer — and could help cure it

Billions worldwide are infected with tropical worms. Unsurprisingly, most of these people live in poor countries, kept poor by the effects of worm-related malnourishment. What may surprise many is that worms also cause the majority of cases of some cancers in these countries.

Read More

Phytochemicals: beyond vitamins

Phytochemicals are non-nutritive chemicals in plant foods that protect plants from microbial invasions and infections.

Read More

Sharp increase in falls in women during midlife

Falls are not just a problem of advanced age, according to researchers, who have identified a sharp increase in falls after the age of 40, particularly in women.

Read More

Latest News

Having a strong life purpose eases loneliness of COVID-19 isolation, study finds

Why can some people weather the stress of social isolation better than others, and what implications does this have for their health? New research found that people who felt a strong sense of purpose in life were less lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read

A new model of Alzheimer’s progression

Scientists explore how protein and signaling pathways change in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Their work creates a new model of disease progression, taking advantage of the heterogeneity that is inherent to human studies.

Read

Potential new treatment target for Alzheimer’s disease

A new study not only sheds light on how the APOE4 gene may cause some of the pathologies associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but also suggests a new treatment target that might help people who carry the APOE4 gene in early and late stages of the disease. Researchers found that APOE4 is associated with the activation of an inflammatory protein that causes a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier which protects the brain.

Read

“Our bodies are our gardens - our wills are our gardeners.”

William Shakespeare