Variation in Gut Microbiota Composition is Associated with Sleep Quality and Cognitive Performance in Older Adults with Insomnia

Nat Sci Sleep. 2022 Oct 6;14:1753-1767. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S377114. eCollection 2022.


Purpose: Insomnia, a chronic condition affecting 50% of older adults, is often accompanied by cognitive decline. The mechanism underlying this comorbidity is not fully understood. A growing literature suggests the importance of gut microbiota for brain function. We tested associations between sleep quality and cognitive performance with gut microbiota in older adults with insomnia.

Patients and methods: Seventy-two older adults with insomnia (age 73.2 ± 5.73 years, 56 females) provided stool samples for gut microbial sequencing. Microbiota profile was determined using the DADA2 bioinformatics pipeline. Cognition was assessed with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Objective sleep quality was monitored by a two-week actigraphic recording, and participants completed the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). We used partial canonical correspondence analysis (pCCA) to examine the relative contribution of insomnia, based on actigraphic sleep efficiency (SE) and ISI, and of cognitive status, based on the Multitasking test of Median Reaction Latency (MTTLMD) and the Spatial Working Memory Between Errors (SWMBE), to variance in microbiota composition. We used Pearson correlations to correlate insomnia and cognitive status parameters with microbiota amplicon sequence variants, genera, and families.

Results: The pCCA revealed that sleep quality and cognitive performance explained a variation of 7.5-7.9% in gut microbiota composition in older adults with insomnia. Correlation analysis demonstrated that Lachnoclostridium (genus) correlates positively with SE (r=0.42; P=0.05) and negatively with MTTLMD (r=-0.29; P=0.03), whereas Blautia (genus) correlates negatively with MTTLMD (r=-0.31; P=0.01).

Conclusion: Findings demonstrate the associations of sleep quality and cognitive performance with variance in gut microbiota composition and with specific genus abundance in older adults with insomnia. Further studies should validate the findings, determine causal relationships, and evaluate potential interventions for the comorbidity of insomnia and cognitive impairment in older adults with insomnia.

Keywords: actigraphy; cognition; microbiome; older adults; sleep efficiency.

Grant support

This research received funding from the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology grant number 3-13607.