Sleep Month in Review: February 2024


Our February 2024 month-in-review recaps research on Long COVID’s effect on sleep, Black older adults’ poor sleep quality being linked to executive function decline, among other findings.

With Sleep Awareness Month now upon us, it is time to take a step back and acknowledge the sleep research published in February. From new data on Long COVID’s effect on sleep to a study finding a new way to improve subjective sleep for individuals with memory issues, there was a plethora of sleep studies published last month across various specialties.

This month in review spotlights 5 of the biggest stories in sleep.

Older Adults Sleep Quality

Black Older Adults’ Poorer Sleep Quality Linked to Executive Function Decline

A recent study found sleep quality and sleep medication for Black older adults affected cognitive aging in a different way than for White older adults. Particularly, sleep quality and sleep medication were associated with an executive function decline. The investigators conducted a study to assess the prevalence of poor sleep quality and sleep apnea, 2 factors that could be modified in old age, based on race and ethnicity. They wanted to see if sleep affects cognitive aging in a different way for specific racial groups. Although they found a greater sleep apnea risk was linked to quicker declines in verbal episodic memory but not executive function, worse sleep quality was linked to declines in executive function and not verbal episodic memory.

Timed Activity Routines for People with Memory Issues Improve Subjective Sleep

A new study found a way for people with memory issues to have improved subjective sleep and quality of life without drugs—completing timed activities around the same time every day, such as reminiscing in the morning, exercising in the afternoon, and sensory activities in the evening. Investigators leveraged data from a randomized, double-blind control called “The Health Patterns Sleep Study” to assess if the Healthy Patterns Sleep Program improved sleep quality and quality of life for people with cognitive impairment, as well as to see if the program helps people who had depressive symptoms and poor observed sleep at baseline. A sub-analysis demonstrated participants with depressive symptoms had significantly improved subjective sleep after the program.

Highlighting New Insomnia Data

Non-Hospitalized COVID-19 Linked to Developing Insomnia

Since the prevalence of insomnia was only researched among hospitalized COVID-19 survivors, investigators conducted a cross-sectional online survey of 1056 non-hospitalized COVID-19 survivors in the Vietnam general population. The study found more than 75% of non-hospitalized COVID-19 survivor participants had insomnia, which is greater than previous reports of the same demographic. This was also a greater prevalence of insomnia than among hospitalized COVID-19 survivors as found in previous systematic reviews. However, the investigators pointed out the high prevalence could be because participants had COVID-19 within 6 months of completing the survey.

Insomnia, Shorter Sleep Duration Linked to the Risk of Autoimmune Arthritis

Insomnia and short sleep duration are linked to the risk of autoimmune arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a recent study. The analysis showed a genetic predisposition to insomnia symptoms was linked to a greater RA risk. Investigators sought to assess the genetic causal relationship between sleep traits such as insomnia, sleep duration, napping during the day, chronotype, and narcolepsy with the risk of autoimmune arthritis. They analyzed different forms of autoimmune arthritis, including RA, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis. The team used univariable and multivariable Mendelian randomization on genome-wide association studies to evaluate the relationship. The univariable analyses showed a significant link between insomnia symptoms and increased odds of overall RA.

Fibromyalgia and Sleep

Fibromyalgia, Sleep Disturbance Linked to Poor Accuracy for Divided Attention

A study found patients with the chronic pain condition of fibromyalgia had greater sleep disturbance and therefore had worse accuracy for divided attention tasks than healthy controls. Expanding off a primary analysis which found patients with fibromyalgia demonstrated impaired cognitive performance compared with healthy controls, investigators conducted a secondary data analysis to assess the same association but to see if psychosocial factors caused the cognitive performance differences. Participants completed 2 tasks: an attentional switching task assessing how well they could switch from one task to another and a divided attention task assessing how well they could complete 2 tasks simultaneously. Investigators found patients with fibromyalgia had worse accuracy for tasks requiring divided attention and sleep disturbance served as a mediator for the group differences in cognitive performance.

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