Obstructive sleep apnea and 15-year cognitive decline: The atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study

Pamela L. Lutsey, Lindsay G.S. Bengtson, Naresh M. Punjabi, Eyal Shahar, Thomas H. Mosley, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Lisa M. Wruck, Richard F. MacLehose, Alvaro Alonso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Prospective data evaluating abnormal sleep quality and quantity with cognitive decline are limited because most studies used subjective data and/or had short follow-up. We hypothesized that, over 15 y of follow-up, participants with objectively measured obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other indices of poor sleep quantity and quality would experience greater decline in cognitive functioning than participants with normal sleep patterns. Methods: ARIC participants (n = 966; mean age 61 y, 55% women) with in-home polysomnography (1996-1998) and repeated cognitive testing were followed for 15 y. Three cognitive tests (Delayed Word Recall, Word Fluency, and Digit Symbol Substitution) were administered at two time points (1996-1998 and 2011-2013). Ten additional cognitive tests were administered at the 2011-2013 neurocognitive examination. OSA was modeled using established clinical OSA severity categories. Multivariable linear regression was used to explore associations of OSA and other sleep indices with change in cognitive tests between the two assessments. Results: A median of 14.9 y (max: 17.3) passed between the two cognitive assessments. OSA category and additional indices of sleep (other measures of hypoxemia and disordered breathing, sleep fragmentation, sleep duration) were not associated with change in any cognitive test. Analyses of OSA severity categories and 10 cognitive tests administered only in 2011-2013 also showed little evidence of an association. Conclusions: Overall, abnormal sleep quality and quantity at midlife was not related to cognitive decline and later-life cognition. The effect of adverse sleep quality and quantity on cognitive decline among the elderly remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-316
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study
  • Cognitive decline
  • Epidemiology
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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