Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition characterized by cognitive decline without significant functional impairment, presents a daunting reality: a 7-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of poorer quality of life (QOL), premature mortality, and health care expenditures. 

Sleep and biobehavioral rhythm disturbances (disruptions in 24h oscillations in physiology and behavior, including rest-activity patterns and mealtimes) are more than twice as common among patients with MCI than cognitively intact older adults. Emerging evidence demonstrates a mechanistic role of sleep and biobehavioral rhythm disturbances in cognitive decline and the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Importantly, the consequences of sleep and biobehavioral rhythm disruption in MCI extend beyond the patient, also affecting the spouse/partner, as sleep is a “shared” health behavior for most adults. However, sleep and biobehavioral rhythms are typically considered at the level of the individual. 

Dr. Kelly Baron of the University of Utah and Dr. Wendy Troxel of the RAND Corporation are leading a study to investigate sleep and biobehavioral rhythms as fundamental dyadic processes that contribute to the health and cognitive functioning of individuals with MCI or mild AD and their partners. The study involves a 10-day naturalistic study protocol in order to examine the mechanistic associations between sleep and biobehavioral rhythms and proximal indicators of daytime functioning, within a sample of 170 couples in which one partner evidences cognitive impairment (MCI to mild Alzheimer’s disease). During the naturalistic study protocol, sleep and biobehavioral rhythms will be measured via actigraphy and the study will include daily assessments of mood, relationship quality, and cognitive assessments using the NeuroUX platform. NeuroUX’s EMA and Cognitive Testing Platform plays an important role, enabling the collection of precise data on cognitive function and daily behaviors of participants.

In addition, comprehensive neuropsychological assessments will be conducted at baseline and again at two-year follow-up to examine how sleep and biobehavioral rhythm disruptions at baseline predict cognitive decline over 2 years in both partners. Results of study will advance the understanding of the daily and longitudinal relationships between the individual and couple-level processes in sleep and biobehavioral rhythms that influence the progression of cognitive decline in a population at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.