Recent studies suggest that interindividual genetic differences in glial-dependent CSF flow through the brain parenchyma, known as glymphatic flow, may trigger compensatory changes in human sleep physiology. In animal models, brain perivascular spaces are a critical conduit for glymphatic flow. We tested the hypothesis that MRI-visible PVS volumes, a putative marker of perivascular dysfunction, are associated with compensatory differences in real-world human sleep behavior.
We analyzed data from 152 cerebrovascular disease patients from the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI). PVS volumes were measured using 3T-MRI. Self-reported total sleep time, time in bed, and daytime dysfunction were extracted from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.
Individuals with greater PVS volumes reported longer time in bed (+0.85 h per log10 proportion of intracranial volume (ICV) occupied by PVS, SE = 0.30, p = 0.006) and longer total sleep times (+0.70 h per log10 proportion of ICV occupied by PVS volume, SE = 0.33, p = 0.04), independent of vascular risk factors, sleep apnea, nocturnal sleep disturbance, depression, and global cognitive status. Further analyses suggested that the positive association between PVS volumes and total sleep time was mediated by greater time in bed. Moreover, despite having on average greater total sleep times, individuals with greater basal ganglia PVS volumes were more likely to report daytime dysfunction (OR 5.63 per log10 proportion of ICV occupied by PVS, 95% CI: 1.38-22.26, p = 0.018).
Individuals with greater PVS volumes spend more time in bed, resulting in greater total sleep time, which may represent a behavioral compensatory response to perivascular space dysfunction.

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