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Aging is accompanied by cognitive decline that is escalated in older adults reporting extreme sleep duration. Social relationships can influence health outcomes and thus may qualify the association between sleep duration and cognitive function. The present study examines the moderating effects of marital status, household size, and social network with friends and relatives on the sleep–cognition association among older adults.
Data (N = 4,169) came from the Social Isolation, Health, and Lifestyles Survey, a nationally representative survey of community-dwelling older Singaporeans (≥ 60 years). Sleep duration and social relationships were self-reported. Cognitive function was assessed with the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire.
Regression analysis revealed that the inverted U-shaped association between sleep duration and cognitive function was less profound among older adults who were married (vs. unmarried) and those who had stronger (vs. weaker) social networks. In contrast, it was more prominent among individuals who had more (vs. fewer) household members.
Being married and having stronger social networks may buffer against the negative cognitive impact of extreme sleep duration. But larger household size might imply more stress for older persons, and therefore strengthen the sleep duration–cognitive function association. We discuss the potential biological underpinnings and the policy implications of the findings. Although our findings are based on a large sample, replication studies using objective measures of sleep duration and other cognitive measures are needed.
Durations of nocturnal sleep and daytime nap influence the well-being of older adults. It is thus essential to understand their determinants. However, much previous research did not assess sleep duration and nap duration individually, and longitudinal data is lacking. This study aimed at examining the impact of demographic, psychosocial, and health factors, including ethnicity, social networks outside the household, smoking and physical exercise on sleep duration and nap duration among community-dwelling elderly.
Our study involved over 2,600 older adults (≥60 years) from a longitudinal, nationally representative survey – the Panel on Health and Ageing of Singaporean Elderly. Sleep and nap durations at Time 2 (two years later) were regressed on predictors measured at Time 1.
Time 2 short nocturnal sleep duration was predicted by Malay ethnicity (relative to Chinese and Indian), older age, lower education level, more depressive symptoms, and obesity, whereas future long nocturnal sleep duration was predicted by weaker social networks, older age, and more chronic diseases. Furthermore, smoking, obesity, Malay or Indian (relative to Chinese), older age, male gender, and cognitive impairment predicted longer daytime nap duration in the future.
Older adults’ nocturnal sleep and daytime nap durations may be affected by different demographic, psychosocial, and health factors. Thus, it is important to differentiate these two attributes in this age group.
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