In a new study from the University of Michigan, researchers found that having trouble falling asleep, as compared to other patterns of insomnia, was the main insomnia symptom that predicted cognitive impairment 14 years later.
They that having trouble falling asleep in 2002 was linked to cognitive impairment in 2016.
Specifically, more frequent trouble falling asleep predicted poorer episodic memory, executive function, language, processing speed, and visuospatial performance.
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep.
Daytime symptoms include fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and having low motivation or energy.
In the study, the team analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, which involved 2,496 adults who were at least 51 years of age.
In 2002 they reported the frequency of experiencing insomnia symptoms. In 2016 the participants’ cognition was assessed
The team found people who had trouble falling asleep in 2002 showed cognitive impairment in 2016.
Further analysis found that associations between sleep initiation and later cognition were partially explained by both depressive symptoms and vascular diseases in 2014 for all domains except episodic memory, which was only partially explained by depressive symptoms.
The team says these results are important given the lack of currently available treatments for late-life cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
These results suggest that regular screening for insomnia symptoms may help with tracking and identifying people with trouble falling asleep in mid-to-late life who might be at risk for developing cognitive impairments later in life.
Additional intervention research is needed to determine whether intervening on insomnia symptoms can help prevent or slow the progression of cognitive impairments in later life.
If you care about sleep and your health, please read studies about your sleep history may help predict Alzheimer’s later in life and findings of 5 signs you may have a high risk of sleep apnea.
For more information about sleep disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about breathing problems during sleep may cause fast aging and results showing that just one night of bad sleep could hurt your blood pressure.
The study is published in Sleep. One author of the study is Afsara Zaheed.
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