Age effects of sleep problems in individuals with multiple sclerosis.

TitleAge effects of sleep problems in individuals with multiple sclerosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsGoetz MC, Jensen MP, Verrall A, Ehde DM, Bamer AM, Molton IR, Kraft GH
JournalInternational Journal of MS Care
Sleep and MS

Background: Sleep disturbances in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) are relatively common (ie, with many studies showing prevalence of approximately 50%), and evidence indicates that sleep problems are more common in MS samples than in samples of individuals who do not have MS. There is also evidence among the general population suggesting that sleep problems increase with age. However, previous research suggests that among some disability groups (eg, spinal cord injury) there may be a decline in sleep problems with age. Objectives: Based on previous research, we hypothesized that 1) sleep dysfunction in an MS sample would be greater when compared with a normative sample and 2) an examination of aging variables (chronological age, disability duration, and age at disability onset) would show a negative relationship between chronological age and the severity of sleep disturbance. Methods: A survey was administered to 584 individuals with MS that included measures of demographic characteristics and the PROMIS Sleep Disturbance Item Bank. The analytic strategy was based on a Jensen et al. (2009) paper in which a series of multiple regression analyses examined the independent contribution of three age-related variables to sleep problems: chronological age, disability duration, and age at disability onset. Results: Hypothesis 1 was not supported in that comparisons of the MS and normative data on the PROMIS revealed no differences in sleep disruption. Hypothesis 2 was supported in that the findings suggested that younger and middle-aged participants reported more sleep disturbance than did older participants. When controlling for chronological age, disability duration and age at disability onset were not significantly associated with sleep difficulties. Conclusion: One possible explanation for the age effect found is a cohort effect where the older adult groups could potentially include participants who are healthier than the younger participants (ie, health factors associated with sleep disturbance might be related to mortality). It is also possible that age influences or is associated with some third variable that influences sleep quality (eg, employed vs. retired). Longitudinal research following the same group of patients over time is needed to help test these possible explanations.