Does sleep duration moderate genetic and environmental contributions to cognitive performance?

Tina T Vo*, Shandell Pahlen, William S Kremen, Matt McGue, Anna Dahl Aslan, Marianne Nygaard, Kaare Christensen, Chandra A Reynolds, IGEMS consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


While prior research has demonstrated a relationship between sleep and cognitive performance, how sleep relates to underlying genetic and environmental etiologies contributing to cognitive functioning, regardless of the level of cognitive function, is unclear. The present study assessed whether the importance of genetic and environmental contributions to cognition vary depending on an individual's aging-related sleep characteristics. The large sample consisted of twins from six studies within the Interplay of Genes and Environment across Multiple Studies (IGEMS) consortium spanning mid- to late-life (Average age (Mage)=57.6, range= 27 to 91 years, N=7052, Female=43.70%, 1525 complete monozygotic (MZ) pairs, 2001 complete dizygotic (DZ) pairs). Quantitative genetic twin models considered sleep duration as a primary moderator of genetic and environmental contributions to cognitive performance in four cognitive abilities (Semantic Fluency, Spatial-Visual Reasoning, Processing Speed, and Episodic Memory), while accounting for age moderation. Results suggested genetic and both shared and nonshared environmental contributions for Semantic Fluency and genetic and shared environmental contributions for Episodic Memory vary by sleep duration, while no significant moderation was observed for Spatial-Visual Reasoning or Processing Speed. Results for Semantic Fluency and Episodic Memory illustrated patterns of higher genetic influences on cognitive function at shorter sleep durations (i.e., 4 hours) and higher shared environmental contributions to cognitive function at longer sleep durations (i.e., 10 hours). Overall, these findings may align with associations of upregulation of neuroinflammatory processes and ineffective beta-amyloid clearance in short sleep contexts and common reporting of mental fatigue in long sleep contexts, both associated with poorer cognitive functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsac140
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 10. Oct 2022


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging/psychology
  • Cognition/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep/genetics
  • Twins, Dizygotic/genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic/genetics


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