A pinboard by
Anna Scovelle

PhD Candidate, Monash University


The role of sleep and the impact of sleep restriction on attention outcomes in older adults.

Australia is an ageing society. By 2050, one quarter of all Australians will be over 65 years of age. One of the most common complaints of older adults is difficulty sleeping. Many older adults report difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and frequent sleep disturbances throughout the night. Despite evidence to suggest that many older adults are chronically sleep deprived, little is known about how this impacts day-to-day function. Attention is a requirement of daily activities (e.g. driving) and the foundation of higher-order cognitive functions. While attentional slowing has been demonstrated in older adults, it is inconclusive as to whether this is associated with age-related changes in sleep. In fact, current research suggests that older adults are resilient to the effects of sleep loss, when compared to young adults. To date, research exploring the associations between sleep and attention have utilised reaction time as their primary measure. However, ocular-motor assessments of attention can provide a more detailed assessment of attention, by utilizing novel paradigms designed to tap into the fronto-parietal network of attention (i.e. the top-down allocation of attention and the inhibition of peripheral distractors). My research aims to elucidate the role of sleep and the impact of sleep restriction on attention outcomes in older adults, using this novel ocular-motor approach. The findings from my research will provide novel insight into how the changes that occur in sleep with ageing impact attention outcomes. Understanding this relationship may facilitate the development of targeted sleep interventions to not only improve attention in older adults, but also potentially prevent attention decline.


Healthy older adults better tolerate sleep deprivation than young adults.

Abstract: To determine whether healthy aging is associated with increased sleepiness and whether healthy older adults experience more sleepiness when acutely sleep deprived.A 5-day inpatient circadian rhythm-sleep study consisting of 3 baseline nights followed by an extended 26-hour wake episode under constant conditions.Intensive Physiological Monitoring Unit, General Clinical Research Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital.Thirty-seven healthy participants without medical, psychological, or sleep disorders: 26 young (7 women, 19 men; mean age 21.9 +/- 3.3, range 18-29) and 11 "young-old" adults (3 women, 8 men; mean age 68.1 +/- 3.6, range 65-76).An extended 26-hour wake episode under constant conditions.Electroencephalographic-verified wakefulness, slow eye movements, sustained attention, subjective sleepiness.During the first 16 hours corresponding to the usual waking day, both groups rated themselves as alert and had similar levels of vigilance and little evidence of sleepiness. As the wake episode continued, the older subjects were less impaired, showing faster reaction times, fewer performance lapses and attentional failures, and less frequent unintentional sleep episodes than the younger subjects.This small study suggests that excessive sleepiness is not normal in healthy older adults. Symptoms of excessive sleepiness in this population, including reliance on caffeine to maintain alertness, should be evaluated and treated. Further study is needed to determine whether daytime sleepiness in middle-old (75-84 years) and old-old (> or = 85) adults is normal or is instead associated with sleep restriction, undiagnosed sleep disorders, medication side effects, mood disorders, or other medical disorders that disrupt sleep.

Pub.: 23 May '09, Pinned: 09 Aug '17