Sleep and cognitive aging in the eighth decade of life

Simon R. Cox, Stuart J Ritchie, Michael Allerhand, Saskia P. Hagenaars, Ratko Radakovic, David P. Breen, Gail Davies, Renata L. Riha, Sarah Harris, John M. Starr, Ian J. Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We examined associations between self-reported sleep measures and cognitive level and change (age 70–76 years) in a longitudinal, same-year-of-birth cohort study (baseline N = 1091; longitudinal N = 664). We also leveraged GWAS summary data to ascertain whether polygenic scores (PGS) of chronotype and sleep duration related to self-reported sleep, and to cognitive level and change. Shorter sleep latency was associated with significantly higher levels of visuospatial ability, processing speed, and verbal memory (β ≥ |0.184|, SE ≤ 0.075, p ≤ 0.003). Longer daytime sleep duration was significantly associated slower processing speed (β = −0.085, SE = 0.027, p = 0.001), and with steeper 6-year decline in visuospatial reasoning (β = −0.009, SE = 0.003, p = 0.008), and processing speed (β = −0.009, SE = 0.002, p < 0.001). Only longitudinal associations between longer daytime sleeping and steeper cognitive declines survived correction for important health covariates and false discovery rate (FDR). PGS of chronotype and sleep duration were nominally associated with specific self-reported sleep characteristics for most SNP thresholds (standardized β range = |0.123 to 0.082|, p range = 0.003 to 0.046), but neither PGS predicted cognitive level or change following FDR. Daytime sleep duration is a potentially important correlate of cognitive decline in visuospatial reasoning and processing speed in older age, whereas cross-sectional associations are partially confounded by important health factors. A genetic propensity toward morningness and sleep duration were weakly, but consistently, related to self-reported sleep characteristics, and did not relate to cognitive level or change.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsz019
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • daytime sleep
  • cognitive ageing
  • polygenic scores
  • sleep
  • sleep duration
  • self-report
  • affective and behavioral neuroscience of sleep


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