Worsening sleep predicts lower life space mobility during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2022 Jul;70(7):1931-1938. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17896. Epub 2022 May 26.


Background: Poor sleep health is an understudied yet potentially modifiable risk factor for reduced life space mobility (LSM), defined as one's habitual movement throughout a community. The objective of this study was to determine whether recalled changes in sleep traits (e.g., sleep quality, refreshing sleep, sleep problems, and difficulty falling asleep) because of the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with LSM in older adults.

Methods: Data were obtained from a University of Florida-administered study conducted in May and June of 2020 (n = 923). Linear regression models were used to assess the impact of COVID-related change in sleep traits with summary scores from the Life Space Assessment. Analyses were adjusted for demographic, mental, and physical health characteristics, COVID-related avoidant behaviors, and pre-COVID sleep ratings.

Results: In unadjusted models, reporting that any sleep trait got "a lot worse" or "a little worse" was associated with a decrease in LSM (all p < 0.05). Results were attenuated when accounting for demographic, mental, and physical health characteristics. In fully adjusted models, reporting that problems with sleep got "a lot worse" or that refreshing sleep got "a little worse" was associated with a lower standardized LSM score (β = -0.38, 95% CI: -0.74, -0.01, and β = -0.19, 95% CI: -0.37, -0.00, respectively).

Conclusions: While additional research is needed in diverse people and environments, the results demonstrate an association between sleep traits that worsen in response to a health threat and reduced LSM. This finding suggests that interventions that focus on maintaining sleep health in times of heightened stress could preserve LSM.

Keywords: COVID-19; aging; life space mobility; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Sleep / physiology