The following article has just been accepted for publication in Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy:
“Performance on a Functional Motor Task is Enhanced by Sleep in Middle-Aged and Older Adults”
Alham Al-Sharman, PT, PhD; Catherine Siengsukon, PT, Ph.D.
Background and Purpose: While sleep has been shown to enhance motor skill learning, it remains unclear if sleep enhances learning of a functional motor task in middle-aged and older individuals. The purpose of this study was to examine if sleep will enhance motor learning of a functional motor task in middle-aged and older adults.
Method: Twenty middle-aged and 20 older individuals were randomly assigned to either the sleep condition or the no-sleep condition. Participants in the sleep condition practiced a novel walking task in the evening and returned the following morning for a retest. Participants in the no-sleep condition practiced the walking task in the morning and returned the same day in the evening for a retest. Outcome measures included time around the walking path and spatiotemporal gait parameters.
Results: Only the middle-aged and older adults in the sleep condition demonstrated significant off-line improvement in performance with a significant decline in time to walk around the novel path and a significant improvement in spatiotemporal gait parameters. The middle-aged and older adults in the no-sleep condition failed to demonstrate off-line motor learning of the functional task.
Conclusions: This is the first study that provides evidence that sleep facilitates learning a clinically-relevant functional motor task in middle-aged and older adults. Because many neurologic conditions occur in the middle-aged and older adults and sleep issues are very prevalent in many neurologic conditions, it is imperative physical therapists consider sleep as a factor that may impact motor learning and recovery in these individuals.
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