Effects of age on the relationship between sleep quality and cognitive performance: Findings from the Human Connectome Project-Aging cohort

Int Psychogeriatr. 2023 Dec 4:1-11. doi: 10.1017/S1041610223000911. Online ahead of print.


Background: The association between sleep quality and cognition is widely established, but the role of aging in this relationship is largely unknown.

Objective: To examine how age impacts the sleep-cognition relationship and determine whether there are sensitive ranges when the relationship between sleep and cognition is modified. This investigation could help identify individuals at risk for sleep-related cognitive impairment.

Subjects: Sample included 711 individuals (ages 36.00-89.8359.66 ± 14.9155.7 % female) from the Human Connectome Project-Aging (HCP-A).

Methods: The association between sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, PSQI) and cognition (Crystallized Cognition Composite and Fluid Cognition Composite from the NIH Toolbox, the Trail Making Test, TMT, and the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) was measured using linear regression models, with sex, race, use of sleep medication, hypertension, and years of education as covariates. The interaction between sleep and age on cognition was tested using the moderation analysis, with age as both continuous linear and nonlinear (quadratic) terms.

Results: There was a significant interaction term between the PSQI and nonlinear age term (age2) on TMT-B (p = 0.02) and NIH Toolbox crystallized cognition (p = 0.02), indicating that poor sleep quality was associated with worse performance on these measures (sensitive age ranges 50-75 years for TMT-B and 66-70 years for crystallized cognition).

Conclusions: The sleep-cognition relationship may be modified by age. Individuals in the middle age to early older adulthood age band may be most vulnerable to sleep-related cognitive impairment.

Keywords: aging; cognitive assessment; risk factors; sleep.