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Cellular aging and restorative processes: subjective sleep quality and duration moderate the association between age and telomere length in a sample of middle-aged and older adults.

Authors: Matthew R MR. Cribbet, McKenzie M. Carlisle, Richard M RM. Cawthon, Bert N BN. Uchino, Paula G PG. Williams, Timothy W TW. Smith, Heather E HE. Gunn, Kathleen C KC. Light
Published: 01/01/2014, Sleep

Study Objectives

To examine whether subjective sleep quality and sleep duration moderate the association between age and telomere length (TL).


Participants completed a demographic and sleep quality questionnaire, followed by a blood draw.


Social Neuroscience Laboratory.


One hundred fifty-four middle-aged to older adults (age 45-77 y) participated. Participants were excluded if they were on immunosuppressive treatment and/or had a disease with a clear immunologic (e.g., cancer) component.



Measurements And Results

Subjective sleep quality and sleep duration were assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and TL was determined using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). There was a significant first-order negative association between age and TL. Age was also negatively associated with the self-reported sleep quality item and sleep duration component of the PSQI. A significant age × self-reported sleep quality interaction revealed that age was more strongly related to TL among poor sleepers, and that good sleep quality attenuated the association between age and TL. Moreover, adequate subjective sleep duration among older adults (i.e. greater than 7 h per night) was associated with TL comparable to that in middle-aged adults, whereas sleep duration was unrelated to TL for the middle-aged adults in our study.


The current study provides evidence for an association between sleep quality, sleep duration, and cellular aging. Among older adults, better subjective sleep quality was associated with the extent of cellular aging, suggesting that sleep duration and sleep quality may be added to a growing list of modifiable behaviors associated with the adverse effects of aging.

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