Sleep duration and age-related changes in brain structure and cognitive performance

Sleep. 2014 Jul 1;37(7):1171-8. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3832.


Study objectives: To investigate the contribution of sleep duration and quality to age-related changes in brain structure and cognitive performance in relatively healthy older adults.

Design: Community-based longitudinal brain and cognitive aging study using a convenience sample.

Setting: Participants were studied in a research laboratory.

Participants: Relatively healthy adults aged 55 y and older at study commencement.

Interventions: N/A.

Measurements and results: Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological assessment every 2 y. Subjective assessments of sleep duration and quality and blood samples were obtained. Each hour of reduced sleep duration at baseline augmented the annual expansion rate of the ventricles by 0.59% (P = 0.007) and the annual decline rate in global cognitive performance by 0.67% (P = 0.050) in the subsequent 2 y after controlling for the effects of age, sex, education, and body mass index. In contrast, global sleep quality at baseline did not modulate either brain or cognitive aging. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of systemic inflammation, showed no correlation with baseline sleep duration, brain structure, or cognitive performance.

Conclusions: In healthy older adults, short sleep duration is associated with greater age-related brain atrophy and cognitive decline. These associations are not associated with elevated inflammatory responses among short sleepers.

Citation: Lo JC, Loh KK, Zheng H, Sim SK, Chee MW. Sleep duration and age-related changes in brain structure and cognitive performance.

Keywords: aging; brain structure; cognitive performance; sleep duration; sleep quality.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Time Factors


  • C-Reactive Protein