Aging young sleep: a test of the phase advance hypothesis of sleep disturbance in the elderly

Authors

  • SCOTT S. CAMPBELL,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, USA
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      Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 11–23 Woodeville Road, Adelaide, SA 5011.

  • DREW DAWSON

    1. Institute of Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, USA
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      Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 11–23 Woodeville Road, Adelaide, SA 5011.


Institute of Chronobiology, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, 21 Bloomingdale Road, White Plains, New York 10605, U.S.A. Fax: + 1/914-682.

Abstract

SUMMARY  With aging, the phase relationship between sleep and body core temperature is altered such that the temperature minimum occurs substantially earlier in the major nocturnal sleep period. The sleep maintenance difficulties that often accompany normal aging are generally assumed to be associated with this age-related change in the phase angle between sleep and temperature. To test this notion, we used timed exposure to bright light to reproduce in healthy young adults a similar phase relationship between temperature and sleep, to determine if such a manipulation would induce the same fragmented nocturnal sleep commonly observed in individuals over 65 years of age. Seven young adults were exposed to morning bright light for 3 consecutive days following a baseline night. Bright light exposure caused a 97 min phase advance of the fitted temperature minimum when compared with baseline. Significant declines in several measures of sleep quality were associated with the phase advance, including wakefulness after initial sleep onset (WASO), sleep efficiency and number of stage changes. Yet, the severity of sleep disturbance exhibited by these subjects did not approach that exhibited by most elderly subjects. The findings suggest that while chronophysiological changes appear to be strongly associated with the tendency to awaken in the early morning, they cannot account entirely for the severity of sleep disturbance frequently observed in older subjects.

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