Sleep disturbance in mild cognitive impairment and association with cognitive functioning. A case-control study

Katie Palmer, Micaela Mitolo, Francesca Burgio, Francesca Meneghello, Annalena Venneri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The aims of the current study are to (1) report the frequency of specific sleep disturbance symptoms in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and cognitive healthy older persons; (2) examine whether overall poor sleep and specific sleep disturbance symptoms are more common in persons with MCI compared to cognitive healthy older controls and; (3) examine the association between sleep disturbances and performance in general and specific cognitive domains in persons with MCI and separately in cognitive healthy older persons. Methods: Data were collected at the Fondazione Ospedale San Camillo Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Venice, Italy as part of the European VPH-DARE@IT project. We included 69 persons with MCI (mean age 75.7; SD = 7.7) and 72 sex-matched cognitively healthy controls (mean age 71.8; SD = 7.0). Participants underwent extensive neuropsychological assessment and evaluation of subjective sleep performance with the Sleep Continuity in Alzheimer's Disease Scale (SCADS). Results: A fifth of MCI patients (21.7%, n = 15) had poor sleep compared to 15.3% (n = 11) of cognitively healthy controls. MCI patients had a 3.2 higher odds of having poor sleep compared to cognitively healthy controls after adjustment for age, education, sex, and general cognitive functioning (Odds Ratio (OR)=3.2; 95% Confidence Interval (CI)=1.1-9.2). Persons who reported waking up twice or more during the night had higher odds of being MCI compared to those who never wake or wake only once (OR = 2.6; 95% CI = 1.1-6.1). In MCI patients, poor sleep was associated with better general cognitive functioning and short-term working memory, whereas in cognitive healthy older persons poor sleep was associated with impairment in episodic memory performance and executive functioning. Discussion: Our results confirm previous studies showing that sleep disturbances are common in MCI, and this may be due to an ongoing neurodegenerative process rather than a symptom of cognitive impairment. Future research with objective sleep measurements are needed in MCI as well as interventions to improve sleep with the aim of preventing cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish
Article number360
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Aging
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive impairment
  • MCI
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Sleep
  • Waking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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