Landmark study links sleep, memory problems in elderly African-Americans

Oct 14, 2008

A landmark study led by North Carolina State University researchers shows that African-American seniors who have trouble falling asleep are at higher risk of having memory problems – raising the possibility that identifying and treating sleep difficulties in the elderly may help preserve their cognitive functioning. The study is the first to examine the link between sleep and cognitive functioning in older African-Americans.

The study, led by NC State psychology Ph.D. student Alyssa A. Gamaldo, shows that older African-Americans who reported having trouble falling asleep tended to do much worse on memory tests than those study participants who did not have trouble falling asleep. Gamaldo says that the difference was particularly apparent in tests related to "working memory," which is the ability to multitask or do two things at once. The study examined 174 subjects between the ages of 65 and 90.

Gamaldo says the findings raise additional questions, which will have to be addressed in future research. For example, Gamaldo says, "it is not clear if lack of sleep is the issue. Is it the quantity of sleep, the quality of sleep, or something else altogether?"

The study raises questions for future research on both sleep and cognitive functioning in the elderly. The findings indicate that sleep may need to be accounted for as a confounding variable in cognition studies targeting seniors. In addition, the findings show that sleep research may need to increase its focus on older adults in order to fully explore the impacts of sleep problems on cognition in seniors.

"If we can better understand how sleep quantity, as well as quality, influences general cognitive functioning, perhaps we could better maintain memory throughout life – including later in life," Gamaldo says.

Citation: "The Relationship Between Reported Problems Falling Asleep and Cognition Among African American Elderly"; Alyssa A. Gamaldo, Dr. Jason C. Allaire, North Carolina State University; Dr. Keith E. Whitfield, Duke University; Published: November 2008 in Research on Aging.

Source: North Carolina State University

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...