Cognitive Decline Linked to ‘Can’t Fall Asleep’ and Waking Up Too Early Interview with:

Dr. Rebecca Robbins, PhD MS Fellow at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Dr. Robbins

Dr. Rebecca Robbins, PhD MS
Fellow at Brigham & Women’s Hospital
and Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study?

Response: Sleep difficulties are common among older adults and are associated with cognitive decline. We used data collected over 10 years from a large, nationally representative longitudinal survey of adults over the age of 50 in the U.S. We examined the relationship between specific sleep difficulties and cognitive function over time. What are the main findings? 

Response: Our results show that early difficulty falling asleep and early morning awakenings, when experienced “most nights” of the week, were each associated with worse cognitive function. Conversely, reports of waking feeling rested was associated with better cognitive function, over time. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Our research contributes to the literature that has shed light on the relationship between markers of poor sleep and cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Our research sheds light on the specific issues of difficulty falling asleep and waking too early. In the case of difficulty falling asleep, it is advise-able to leave bed if one starts to toss and turn and return to bed when tired. Further, our results shed light on the relationship between waking and feeling refreshed – a marker of good sleep health – and better cognitive function among older adults.

Future research may continue to design behavioral interventions and efforts to improve sleep among older adults. For instance, one evidence-based treatment is the use of cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia.


Sleep Difficulties and Cognition over a 10-Year Period in a National Sample of U.S. Older Adults

Rebecca Robbins, PhD, Amanda Sonnega, PhD, Robert W Turner, PhD, Girardin Jean-Louis, PhD, Mark Butler, PhD, Ricardo M Osorio, MD, Kenneth M Langa, MD, PhD

Innovation in Aging, igaa025


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Last Updated on July 1, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD