Individuals with bipolar I disorder (BD-I) experience both poor sleep and neuropsychological dysfunction relative to non-psychiatric populations, which limits functional recovery. Poor sleep adversely affects learning, memory, and executive functioning in healthy individuals; however, little is known about the role of poor sleep in neuropsychological functioning in BD-I. We tested whether sleep disturbance was greater in BD-I than healthy control participants (HC), and compared the effect of sleep quality on learning, memory, and executive functioning between BD-I and HC.
Participants with BD-I (N=250) and HC (N=206) completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, neuropsychological testing, and clinician-administered mood measures as part of a naturalistic study of bipolar disorder. We examined effects of both diagnosis and sleep quality on neuropsychological functioning.
Relative to HC, BD-I showed poorer sleep quality and neuropsychological functioning in verbal learning, verbal and visual memory, processing speed, psychomotor speed, inhibitory control, and selective attention (7/9 domains). Poor sleep quality was associated with poorer verbal learning, verbal fluency, processing speed, and interference control (4/9). Effects of poor sleep on neuropsychological functioning did not differ between BD-I and HC.
The assessment of sleep quality using a self-report measure and the effects of medications/sleeping aids (given the naturalistic study design) should be considered when interpreting results.
Those with BD-I experiencing poor sleep may also be more vulnerable to verbal learning and executive functioning impairments. The findings of poor sleep in relation to poorer neuropsychological functioning have implications for assessment and treatment of sleep disturbance in BD-I.

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