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Sleep Loss in Older Adults: Effects on Waking Performance and Sleep-Dependent Memory Consolidation with Healthy Aging and Insomnia

Chapter

Abstract

Aging is accompanied by changes in sleep quality that include decreases in total sleep time and sleep efficiency as well as increases in wake time after sleep onset and early-morning awakenings. These changes produce an overall decline in sleep quality that can be further exacerbated by behavioral factors such as increased daytime napping and diminished exposure to circadian time cues as well as by a wide variety of medical and neuropsychiatric conditions. Prominent changes in sleep architecture with normal aging include decreases in slow wave sleep time and its accompanying spectral power as well as decreases in rapid eye movement (REM) density in REM sleep and stage 2 sleep spindles and K-complexes in non-REM sleep. Intrinsic circadian rhythms of sleep and wake propensity are damped in amplitude and advanced (shifted to earlier times) in older relative to younger adults. Paradoxically, vigilant attention is less degraded by experimental sleep loss in older vs. younger adults due, possibly, to lesser accumulation of sleep pressure with prolonged waking. Nonetheless, sleep-dependent memory consolidation, a cognitive process taking place during sleep itself, is strongly impacted by normal aging. Specifically, sleep-dependent consolidation of procedural memory, such as learning a specific motor sequence, is diminished with aging, whereas sleep continues to facilitate consolidation of declarative memory (e.g., verbal memory) in older adults. Despite buffering of vigilance against sleep loss and preservation of some forms of sleep-dependent memory consolidation with healthy aging, the concurrent degradation of sleep due to medical and neuropsychiatric issues in many elders may greatly reduce benefits to cognition provided by sleep in younger adults. A prominent example of such is the mutually exacerbating conditions of anxiety and insomnia. Thus, treatment of anxiety and/or insomnia may help to restore other cognitive benefits of good sleep in the elderly.

Keywords

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Slow Wave Sleep Sleep Loss Slow Wave Activity Sleep Spindle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward F. Pace-Schott
    • 1
  • Rebecca M. C. Spencer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical School, Massachusetts General HospitalCharlestownUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Behavior ProgramUniversity of Massachusetts, AmherstAmherstUSA

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