Sleep problems relate to brain changes in aging and disease, but the mechanisms are unknown. Studies suggest a relationship between β-amyloid (Aβ) accumulation and sleep, which is likely augmented by interactions with multiple variables. Here, we tested how different cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for brain pathophysiology, brain atrophy, memory function, and depressive symptoms predicted self-reported sleep patterns in 91 cognitively healthy older adults over a 3-year period.
The results showed that CSF levels of total- and phosphorylated (P) tau, and YKL-40—a marker of neuroinflammation/astroglial activation—predicted poor sleep in Aβ positive older adults. Interestingly, although brain atrophy was strongly predictive of poor sleep, the relationships between CSF biomarkers and sleep were completely independent of atrophy. A joint analysis showed that unique variance in sleep was explained by P-tau and the P-tau × Aβ interaction, memory function, depressive symptoms, and brain atrophy. The results demonstrate that sleep relates to a range of different pathophysiological processes, underscoring the importance of understanding its impact on neurocognitive changes in aging and people with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.