Sleep apnea, sleep duration and brain mri markers of cerebral vascular disease and Alzheimer's disease: The atherosclerosis risk in communities study (ARIC)

Pamela L. Lutsey, Faye L. Norby, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Thomas Mosley, Richard F. MacLehose, Naresh M. Punjabi, Eyal Shahar, Clifford R. Jack, Alvaro Alonso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background A growing body of literature has suggested that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and habitual short sleep duration are linked to poor cognitive function. Neuroimaging studies may provide insight into this relation. Objective We tested the hypotheses that OSA and habitual short sleep duration, measured at ages 54-73 years, would be associated with adverse brain morphology at ages 67-89 years. Methods Included in this analysis are 312 ARIC study participants who underwent in-home overnight polysomnography in 1996-1998 and brain MRI scans about 15 years later (2012-2013). Sleep apnea was quantified by the apnea-hypopnea index and categorized as moderate/ severe (≥15.0 events/hour), mild (5.0-14.9 events/hour), or normal (<5.0 events/hour). Habitual sleep duration was categorized, in hours, as <7, 7 to ≥8, 8. MRI outcomes included number of infarcts (total, subcortical, and cortical) and white matter hyperintensity (WMH) and Alzheimer's disease signature region volumes. Multivariable adjusted logistic and linear regression models were used. All models incorporated inverse probability weighting, to adjust for potential selection bias. Results At the time of the sleep study participants were 61.7 (SD: 5.0) years old and 54% female; 19% had moderate/severe sleep apnea. MRI imaging took place 14.8 (SD: 1.0) years later, when participants were 76.5 (SD: 5.2) years old. In multivariable models which accounted for body mass index, neither OSA nor abnormal sleep duration were statistically significantly associated with odds of cerebral infarcts, WMH brain volumes or regional brain volumes. Conclusions In this community-based sample, mid-life OSA and habitually short sleep duration were not associated with later-life cerebral markers of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, selection bias may have influenced our results and the modest sample size led to relatively imprecise associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0158758
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Lutsey et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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