Rest–activity rhythm and sleep characteristics associated with depression symptom severity in strained dementia caregivers

Stephen F. Smagula, Robert T. Krafty, Briana J. Taylor, Lynn M. Martire, Richard Schulz, Martica H. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Depression is associated with disturbances to sleep and the 24-h sleep–wake pattern (known as the rest–activity rhythm: RAR). However, there remains a need to identify the specific sleep/RAR correlates of depression symptom severity in population subgroups, such as strained dementia caregivers, who are at elevated risk for major depressive disorder. We assessed the cross-sectional associations of sleep/RARs with non-sleep depression symptom severity among 57 (mean age: 74 years, standard deviation: 7.4) strained dementia caregivers who were currently without clinical depression. We derived sleep measures from polysomnography and actigraphy, modelled RARs using a sigmoidally transformed cosine curve and measured non-sleep depression symptom severity using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HRDS) with sleep items removed. The following sleep–wake measures were associated with greater depression symptom severity (absolute Spearman's correlations ranged from 0.23 to 0.32): more time awake after sleep onset (WASO), higher RAR middle level (mesor), relatively shorter active periods (alpha), earlier evening settling time (down-mesor) and less steep RARs (beta). In multivariable analysis, high WASO and low RAR beta were associated independently with depression symptom severity. Predicted non-sleep HDRS means (95% confidence intervals) in caregivers with and without these characteristics were: normal WASO/beta = 3.7 (2.3–5.0), high WASO/normal beta = 5.5 (3.5–7.6), normal WASO/low beta = 6.3 (3.6–8.9) and high WASO/low beta = 8.1 (5.3–10.9). Thus, in our sample of strained caregivers, greater sleep fragmentation (WASO) and less sustained/sharply segregated resting and active periods (low RAR beta) correlate uniquely with depression symptom severity. Longitudinal studies are needed to establish whether these independent sleep–wake correlates of depression symptoms explain heightened depression risk in dementia caregivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-725
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Rest–activity rhythm and sleep characteristics associated with depression symptom severity in strained dementia caregivers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this