A study published in Sleep showed that adults in midlife who had symptoms of insomnia and slept less than 6 hours a night were more likely to have cognitive impairment. The results may help healthcare providers understand which individuals are at increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
In the study, adults with insomnia who had less than 6 hours of measured sleep in a laboratory were twice as likely to have cognitive impairment than individuals with insomnia who got 6 or more hours of sleep. The association between sleep and cognitive impairment was particularly strong for adults with coexisting cardiometabolic conditions, which may be an indicator of vascular cognitive impairment.
“This study reinforces the need to objectively measure the sleep of adults who complain of insomnia,” said Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral health and sleep specialist, Penn State Health Sleep Research and Treatment Center. “These new results demonstrate that these middle-aged adults also have an increased risk of cognitive impairment, which can be an early indicator of future dementia in a significant proportion of them.”
Researchers examined data from the Penn State Adult Cohort, a randomly selected, population-based sample of 1,741 participants who had 1 measured night of sleep in a laboratory. Before sleeping, participants were evaluated for cognitive impairment with tests that assessed attention, memory, and language.
The study accounted for potential differences in sociodemographic factors including age, gender, race, ethnicity, and years of education. The research team also controlled for health issues such as sleep apnea, smoking, and alcohol consumption.