Polysomnographic measures of sleep in cocaine dependence and alcohol dependence: Implications for age-related loss of slow wave, stage 3 sleep

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Background and aims

Sleep disturbance is a prominent complaint in cocaine and alcohol dependence. This controlled study evaluated differences of polysomnographic (PSG) sleep in cocaine- and alcohol-dependent subjects, and examined whether substance dependence interacts with age to alter slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.


Cross-sectional comparison.


Los Angeles and San Diego, CA, USA.


Abstinent cocaine-dependent subjects (n = 32), abstinent alcohol-dependent subjects (n = 73) and controls (n = 108); mean age 40.3 years recruited 2005–12.


PSG measures of sleep continuity and sleep architecture primary outcomes of Stage 3 sleep and REM sleep. Covariates included age, ethnicity, education, smoking, body mass index and depressive symptoms.


Compared with controls, both groups of substance dependent subjects showed loss of Stage 3 sleep (P < 0.001). A substance dependence × age interaction was found in which both cocaine- and alcohol-dependent groups showed loss of Stage 3 sleep at an earlier age than controls (P < 0.05 for all), and cocaine-dependent subjects showed loss of Stage 3 sleep at an earlier age than alcoholics (P < 0.05). Compared with controls, REM sleep was increased in both substance-dependent groups (P < 0.001), and cocaine and alcohol dependence were associated with earlier age-related increase in REM sleep (P < 0.05 for all).


Cocaine and alcohol dependence appear to be associated with marked disturbances of sleep architecture, including increased rapid eye movement sleep and accelerated age-related loss of slow wave, Stage 3 sleep.

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