Irregular sleep patterns in men can lead to cognitive decline

Men aged 65 and over should monitor their sleep patterns and seek medical advice following a warning from experts at Flinders University that sleep disorders may be linked to cognitive dysfunction.

In a new article published in the Journal of Sleep Research, the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health research group examined a group of 477 middle-aged and older men regarding their sleep.

Participants in the Florey Adelaide Male Aging Study completed cognitive tests and a successful sleep study.

Less deep sleep and more light sleep are related to slower responses to cognitive function tests. While obstructive sleep apnea was not directly related to cognitive function in any of the men studied, more light sleep was associated with poorer attention and processing speed in light sleep from the age of 65. “

Jesse Parker, study lead author, Flinders University

The study’s lead author, Flinders Associate Professor Andrew Vakulin, says the results suggest that everyday activities that rely on optimal alertness and cognitive speed, such as driving, physical activity, and walking, may be affected by the intrusion of insomnia.

The research group’s medical director, Professor Robert Adams, says the decrease in deep sleep as people age is linked to cognition. This underscores the importance of ongoing research seeking ways to stimulate deep sleep to slow cognitive decline with age.

Further longitudinal research is needed to link poor sleep and sleep apnea to future changes in sleep patterns and cognitive decline, as well as general micro-architectural changes in sleep patterns in the elderly.


Journal reference:

Parker, JL et al. (2021) Sleep macroarchitecture, but not obstructive sleep apnea, is independently associated with cognitive functions only in older men of a population-based cohort. Journal of Sleep Research.

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