Flinders University experts warn that disrupted slumber can be linked to cognitive dysfunction in men aged 65 years and older.

In a new article published in the Journal of Sleep Research, the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health research group studied a group of 477 middle-aged and older men’s attention and processing speed in relation to their sleep.

The participants from the Florey Adelaide Male Ageing Study undertook cognitive testing and a successful sleep study.

“Less deep sleep and more light sleep is related to slower responses on cognitive function tests,” says lead author Jesse Parker, PhD candidate, in a release.

“While obstructive sleep apnea itself is not directly related to cognitive function in all men studied, we did note that in men aged 65 and older, more light sleep was related to worse attention and processing speed.”

[RELATED: Poor Sleep Quality Linked to Cognitive Decline in Older Men]

Senior author of the study Andrew Vakulin, PhD, Flinders associate professor, says the results suggest that day-to-day activities that rely on optimal attention and cognitive speed such as driving, physical activities, and walking might be affected by the encroachment of poor sleep.

Medical director of the research group and professor Robert Adams, MBBS, FRACP, FRCP, MD, says decreasing deep sleep as people age is associated with cognition. This emphasizes the importance of ongoing research looking at ways to stimulate deep sleep as a means of slowing cognitive decline with age.

Further longitudinal investigation is needed to connect poor sleep and sleep apnea with future changes in sleep patterns and cognitive decline as well as general microarchitectural changes in older people’s sleep patterns.

The study was supported by the NHMRC, Hospital Research Foundation, and ResMed Foundation.

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