Effects of long-term sleep disruption on cognitive function and brain amyloid-β burden: a case-control study

Jana Thomas (Corresponding author), Sharon J Ooms, Lara J Mentink, Jan Booij, Marcel G M Olde Rikkert, Sebastiaan Overeem, Roy P C Kessels, Jurgen A H R Claassen (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Recent evidence indicates that disrupted sleep could contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease by influencing the production and/or clearance of the amyloid-β protein. We set up a case-control study to investigate the association between long-term work-induced sleep disruption, cognitive function, and brain amyloid-β burden.

METHODS: Nineteen male maritime pilots (aged 48-60 years) with chronic work-related sleep disruption and a sex-, age-, and education-matched control sample (n = 16, aged 50-60 years) with normal sleep completed the study. Primary sleep disorders were ruled out with in-lab polysomnography. Additional sleep measurements were obtained at home using actigraphy, sleep-wake logs, and a single-lead EEG device. Cognitive function was assessed with a neuropsychological test battery, sensitive to early symptomatic Alzheimer's disease. Brain amyloid-β burden was assessed in maritime pilots using 18F-flutemetamol amyloid PET-CT.

RESULTS: Maritime pilots reported significantly worse sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) = 8.8 ± 2.9) during work weeks, compared to controls (PSQI = 3.2 ± 1.4; 95% CI 0.01 to 2.57; p = 0.049). This was confirmed with actigraphy-based sleep efficiency (86% ± 3.8 vs. 89.3% ± 4.3; 95% CI 0.43 to 6.03; p = 0.03). Home-EEG recordings showed less total sleep time (TST) and deep sleep time (DST) during work weeks compared to rest weeks (TST 318.56 (250.21-352.93) vs. TST 406.17 (340-425.98); p = 0.001; DST 36.75 (32.30-58.58) vs. DST 51.34 (48.37-69.30); p = 0.005)). There were no differences in any of the cognitive domains between the groups. For brain amyloid-β levels, mean global cortical standard uptake value ratios of 18F-flutemetamol were all in the normal range (1.009 ± 0.059; 95% CI 0.980 to 1.037), confirmed by visual reads.

CONCLUSIONS: Capitalizing on the particular work-rest schedule of maritime pilots, this study with a small sample size observed that long-term intermittent sleep disruption had no effects on global brain amyloid-β levels or cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101
Number of pages12
JournalAlzheimer's Research & Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2020


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyloid-β
  • Cognitive function
  • Shift work
  • Sleep disruption

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of long-term sleep disruption on cognitive function and brain amyloid-β burden: a case-control study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Impacts

    Sleep Medicine

    Merel M. van Gilst (Content manager) & M.B. (Beatrijs) van der Hout-van der Jagt (Content manager)

    Impact: Research Topic/Theme (at group level)

    Cite this

    Thomas, J., Ooms, S. J., Mentink, L. J., Booij, J., Olde Rikkert, M. G. M., Overeem, S., Kessels, R. P. C., & Claassen, J. A. H. R. (2020). Effects of long-term sleep disruption on cognitive function and brain amyloid-β burden: a case-control study. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, 12(1), [101]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-020-00668-5