The aim was to investigate the association between sleep disturbances and cognitive function in younger and older individuals from an ageing population.
3,968 male and 4,821 female white participants, aged 50 years and over, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) were studied. Information on sleep quality and quantity as well as both amnestic (memory, ACF) and non-amnestic (non-memory, nACF) function was available at Wave 4 (2008). Analysis of covariance was used to evaluate the relationship between sleep and cognitive function.
After adjustment for multiple confounders in the younger group (50–64 years) duration of sleep explained 15.2% of the variance in ACF (p = 0.003) and 20.6% of nACF (p = 0.010). In the older group (65+ years) the estimates were 21.3% (p<0.001) and 25.6% (p<0.001), respectively. For sleep quality, there was a statistically significant association between sleep quality and both ACF (p<0.001) and nACF (p<0.001) in the older age group, but not in the younger age group (p = 0.586 and p = 0.373, respectively; interaction between age and sleep quality in the study sample including both age groups: p<0.001 for ACF and p = 0.018 for nACF). Sleep quality explained between 15.1% and 25.5% of the variance in cognition. The interaction with age was independent of duration of sleep. At any level of sleep duration there was a steeper association between sleep quality and ACF in the older than the younger group.
The associations between sleep disturbances and cognitive function vary between younger and older adults. Prospective studies will determine the temporal relationships between sleep disturbances and changes in cognition in different age groups.