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Sleep disturbances and mild cognitive impairment in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

This is part of an institutional international collaboration between the University of Warwick and Boston University on the theme: 'Short and long sleepers: health effects and implications for sleep functions'. It builds on the complementarity of two research groups with world-recognised expertise in the epidemiology of sleep (Warwick Team: Sleep, Health & Society Programme) and in the neuro-behavioural and cognitive aspects of sleep disturbances (Boston Team).


Recent scientific developments clearly indicate that sleep has an important effect on brain behaviour and function. In particular, it has very important effects on memory, co-ordination and executive functions. Furthermore, it is now known that there is a relationship between the severity of sleep disturbance and these functions of the brain in a number of different clinical conditions and it has been suggested that sleep disturbance may be an important early marker of progressive brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

As sleep disorders determine the severity and type of cognitive impairment in various brain-related disorders their diagnosis and treatment may slow disease progression. It is possible that sleep disorders may, therefore, be present and treatable in individuals with mild brain impairment. This is important as treatment may delay further progression from mild brain impairment to dementia, for example. It is therefore essential to develop tools to easily and accurately detect these individuals who are at greater risk.


Our study is assessing the evidence for associations between two domains of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), namely, amnestic (aMCI) and nonamnestic (naMCI), and sleep disturbances in a large cohort (N~10,000) of men and women over the age of 50 years from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) who self-report sleep disturbances.

The purpose of this project is to explore the associations between sleep domains of quantity and quality and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) subtypes (amnestic and non-amnestic) in a representative sample of English ageing population.

We are analysing sleep and MCI phenotypes in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA (N~10,000)). Our specific aim is to assess the association between sleep disturbances and MCI subtypes (amnestic and non-amnestic), to explore the role of personal, social, behavioural and biochemical modifiers and/or confounders, and to establish the baseline for future prospective analyses of the causes of further decline in cognitive function and its subtypes that may occur in subsequent years as individuals get older.

We aim to provide a strong evidence base to determine if there is a causal association between sleep disorders and future cognitive decline, with potential public health impact. The proposed secondary data analysis project will add value to an existing dataset originally collected for a different purpose. It will benefit the wealth of information already collected by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and will set the scene for the analysis of future waves of data that are being collected on sleep and which will subsequently become available. The anticipated findings will be of benefit to a number of different groups of individuals.

Research Outcomes


View Prof Cappuccio and Dr Miller talking about their Sleep, Health & Society Research Programme

Read a report on The Boar (Warwick Student Union): New Warwick-Boston research into causes of sleep disorders.


P McNamara
S Auerbach
(Boston University)

Dr C Ji