Slow-Wave Sleep and Waking Cognitive Performance Among Older Adults With and Without Insomnia Complaints
Previous research has shown that healthy young adults with relatively fast reaction times on daytime testing have significantly more nocturnal slow-wave sleep than do age-matched subjects with relatively slow reaction times on such testing. The current study was conducted to examine the relationship between slow-wave sleep and cognitive performance among older adults with and without insomnia complaints. A sample of 32 noncomplaining older (age > or = 60 years) normal sleepers and a like-aged sample of 32 insomniacs, recruited to participate in a larger study, served as subjects. All subjects underwent nocturnal sleep monitoring immediately prior to undergoing a battery of daytime tests that measured simple reaction time, vigilance/signal detection, and complex reaction time. Results from the normal sleepers showed no relationship between daytime cognitive performance measures and a variety of computer-derived nocturnal slow-wave sleep measures. In contrast, insomniac subjects with relatively slow reaction times showed relative deficits in a spectral analytically derived measure of slow-wave power in the 2 to 4 Hz bandwidth. These results suggest that relative performance deficits among some older insomniacs may be related to specific slow-wave sleep deficiencies. However, among older normal sleepers, intersubject differences in performance appear unrelated to slow-wave sleep measures. Additional research is needed to further explore the possible restorative role slow-wave sleep may serve for cognitive functions other than those examined herein.
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