Self-reported sleep relates to hippocampal atrophy across the adult lifespan – results from the Lifebrain consortium

Anders M. Fjell, Øystein Sørensen, Inge K. Amlien, David Bartrés-Faz, Didac Maciá Bros, Ilja Demuth, Christian A Drevon, Sandra Düzel, Klaus P. Ebmeier, Ane-Victoria Idland, Tim C. Kietzmann, Rogier Kievit, Simone Kühn, Ulman Lindenberger, Athanasia M Mowinckel, Lars Nyberg, Darren Price, Claire E. Sexton, Cristina Solé-Padullés, Sara Pudas, Donatas Sederevicius, Sana Suri, Gerd Wagner, Leiv Otto Watne, René Westerhausen, Enikő Zsoldos, Kristine B. Walhovd

doi: (preprint)


Background Poor sleep is associated with multiple age-related neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions. The hippocampus plays a special role in sleep and sleep-dependent cognition, and accelerated hippocampal atrophy is typically seen with higher age. Hence, it is critical to establish how the relationship between sleep and hippocampal volume loss unfolds across the adult lifespan.

Methods Self-reported sleep measures and MRI-derived hippocampal volumes were obtained from 3105 cognitively normal participants (18-90 years) from major European brain studies in the Lifebrain consortium. Hippocampal volume change was estimated from 5116 MRIs from 1299 participants, covering up to 11 years. Cross-sectional analyses were repeated in a sample of 21390 participants from the UK Biobank.

Results The relationship between self-reported sleep and age differed across sleep items. Sleep duration, efficiency, problems, and use of medication worsened monotonously with age, whereas subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, and daytime tiredness improved. Women reported worse sleep in general than men, but the relationship to age was similar. No cross-sectional sleep – hippocampal volume relationships was found. However, worse sleep quality, efficiency, problems, and daytime tiredness were related to greater hippocampal volume loss over time, with high scorers showing on average 0.22% greater annual loss than low scorers. Simulations showed that longitudinal effects were too small to be detected as age-interactions in cross-sectional analyses.

Conclusions Worse self-reported sleep is associated with higher rates of hippocampal decline across the adult lifespan. This suggests that sleep is relevant to understand individual differences in hippocampal atrophy, but limited effect sizes call for cautious interpretation.

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Published Aug. 22, 2019 10:50 AM - Last modified Aug. 23, 2019 4:00 PM