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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015 Jan;10(1):97-137. doi: 10.1177/1745691614556680.

Sleep, cognition, and normal aging: integrating a half century of multidisciplinary research.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine
Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine.


Sleep is implicated in cognitive functioning in young adults. With increasing age, there are substantial changes to sleep quantity and quality, including changes to slow-wave sleep, spindle density, and sleep continuity/fragmentation. A provocative question for the field of cognitive aging is whether such changes in sleep physiology affect cognition (e.g., memory consolidation). We review nearly a half century of research across seven diverse correlational and experimental domains that historically have had little crosstalk. Broadly speaking, sleep and cognitive functions are often related in advancing age, though the prevalence of null effects in healthy older adults (including correlations in the unexpected, negative direction) indicates that age may be an effect modifier of these associations. We interpret the literature as suggesting that maintaining good sleep quality, at least in young adulthood and middle age, promotes better cognitive functioning and serves to protect against age-related cognitive declines.


actigraphy; epidemiology; memory consolidation; napping; neuropsychology; polysomnography; sleep deprivation; sleep pharmacology

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