Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  2014 Jun;21(1):5-13.

Relationship between Sleep Disturbances and Cognitive Impairments in Older Adults with Depression

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, Korea.


Depression, sleep complaints and cognitive impairments are commonly observed in the elderly. Elderly subjects with depressive symptoms have been found to show both poor cognitive performances and sleep disturbances. However, the relationship between sleep complaints and cognitive dysfunction in elderly depression is not clear. The aim of this study is to identify the association between sleep disturbances and cognitive decline in late-life depression.
A total of 282 elderly people who underwent nocturnal polysomnography in a sleep laboratory were enrolled in the study. The Korean version of the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery developed by the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease (CERAD-K) was applied to evaluate cognitive function. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the geriatric depression scale (GDS) and subjective sleep quality was measured using the Pittsburg sleep quality index (PSQI).
The control group (GDS< or =9) when compared with mild (10< or =GDS< or =16) and severe (17< or =GDS) depression groups, had significantly different scores in the Trail making test part B (TMT-B), Benton visual retention test part A (BVRT-A), and Stroop color and word test (SCWT)(all tests p<0.05). The PSQI score, REM sleep duration, apnea-hypopnea index and oxygen desaturation index were significantly different across the three groups (all indices, p<0.05). A stepwise multiple regression model showed that educational level, age and GDS score were predictive for both TMT-B time (adjusted R2=35.6%, p<0.001) and BVRT-A score (adjusted R2=28.3%, p<0.001). SCWT score was predicted by educational level, age, apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and GDS score (adjusted R2=20.6%, p<0.001). Poor sleep quality and sleep structure alterations observed in depression did not have any significant effects on cognitive deterioration.
Older adults with depressive symptoms showed mild sleep alterations and poor cognitive performances. However, we found no association between sleep disturbances (except sleep apnea) and cognitive difficulties in elderly subjects with depressive symptoms. It is possible that the impact of sleep disruptions on cognitive abilities was hindered by the confounding effect of age, education and depressive symptoms.


Late-life depression; Sleep disturbances; Cognitive impairments; Polysomnography
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