Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

JoAnn Tschanz


JoAnn Tschanz


Mona Buhusi


Gail B. Rattinger


Yin Liu


Sleep disturbance is common in older adults at prevalence rates ranging between 30 - 50% in the United States. Neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), play a role in sleep (Bachmann et al., 2012) as do lifestyle factors such as physical activity (Dolezal et al., 2017) and diet. This study examined the associations of selected single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs related to BDNF or its receptors and lifestyle factors of physical activity and diet, as well as their interactions on the risk for sleep disturbance in older adult males and females. This thesis examined existing data from the Cache County Study on Memory and Aging (CCSMA), a longitudinal, population study of 5,092 individuals aged 65 years and older residing in Cache County, Utah. The results suggest that SNPs related to BDNF or its receptors were not related to sleep problems in either males or females. In males, increased physical activity reduced the likelihood of experiencing sleep disturbances, while unexpectedly, greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet slightly increased the likelihood of reporting sleep problems. In females, the SNPs and lifestyle choices did not appear to have any relationship with sleep disturbance. However, an interaction between the BDNF gene Val66Met and physical activity showed a trend. Specifically, females with the minor and less common allele who reported sedentary-to-light physical activity exhibited a 45% increase in risk of sleep disturbance compared to those who reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Overall, this study suggests that SNPs related to BDNF or its receptors had no significant association with sleep disturbance, but that some effects may be specific to males or females. Increasing physical activity may be beneficial for males with sleep disturbance as well as for females, but for the latter, only for a certain BDNF genetic profile. Future studies may wish to further explore sex-dependent associations between genes and lifestyle factors in improving sleep disturbance in older adults.



Included in

Psychology Commons