REM sleep is associated with white matter integrity in cognitively healthy, older adults

Marie Altendahl, Devyn L. Cotter, Adam M. Staffaroni, Amy Wolf, Paige Mumford, Yann Cobigo, Kaitlin Casaletto, Fanny Elahi, Leslie Ruoff, Samirah Javed, Brianne M. Bettcher, Emily Fox, Michelle You, Rowan Saloner, Thomas C. Neylan, Joel H. Kramer, Christine M. Walshid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


There is increasing awareness that self-reported sleep abnormalities are negatively associated with brain structure and function in older adults. Less is known, however, about how objectively measured sleep associates with brain structure. We objectively measured athome sleep to investigate how sleep architecture and sleep quality related to white matter microstructure in older adults. 43 cognitively normal, older adults underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and a sleep assessment within a six-month period. Participants completed the PSQI, a subjective measure of sleep quality, and used an at-home sleep recorder (Zeo, Inc.) to measure total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency (SE), and percent time in light sleep (LS), deep sleep (DS), and REM sleep (RS). Multiple regressions predicted fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) of the corpus callosum as a function of total PSQI score, TST, SE, and percent of time spent in each sleep stage, controlling for age and sex. Greater percent time spent in RS was significantly associated with higher FA (β = 0.41, p = 0.007) and lower MD (β =-0.30, p = 0.03). Total PSQI score, TST, SE, and time spent in LS or DS were not significantly associated with FA or MD (p>0.13). Percent time spent in REM sleep, but not quantity of light and deep sleep or subjective/objective measures of sleep quality, positively predicted white matter microstructure integrity. Our results highlight an important link between REM sleep and brain health that has the potential to improve sleep interventions in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0235395
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


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