PhD Defense by Emily Hokett

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Name: Emily Hokett

Dissertation Defense Meeting

Date: Wednesday July 21, 2021

Time: 9:30 AM



Advisor: Audrey Duarte, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Dissertation Committee Members:

Vonetta Dotson, Ph.D. (Georgia State University)

Alyssa Gamaldo, Ph.D. (The Pennsylvania State University)

Paul Verhaeghen, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Mark Wheeler, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Title: A Large Online Study Examining Individual Differences in Sleep Quality and Episodic Memory Performance Across the Adult Lifespan: Interactions Between Psychosocial and Sociodemographic Factors


Abstract: The relationship between sleep quality and episodic memory performance, or memory for the details of past events, has been established in young and older adults. The sleep-memory association for young and older adults is statistically equivalent across episodic memory tasks. Although the sleep-memory relationship is similar across age groups, older adults tend to experience reduced sleep quantity and poorer sleep quality than young adults. Similarly, both young and older racial/ethnic minorities experience poorer sleep quality as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Certain lifestyle factors may protect against these age and racial/ethnic group sleep disparities and moderate sleep-memory associations. In the present study, I recruited a 279-participant online sample of racially diverse participants across the adult lifespan (29% Black). I assessed self-reported sleep quality and associated cofactors, including physical activity, social support, socioeconomic status, race-related stress, and religiosity. I examined memory performance using an experimental paired associates task for immediate and delayed memory retrieval. I found no significant age or racial differences in sleep quality or memory performance. However, Black participants reported greater protective factors, including public, private, and internal religiosity. Moreover, Black participants demonstrated stronger associations between larger social networks and better sleep quality than White participants. Across age and racial groups, protective factors moderated the sleep-memory association such that greater endorsement of protective lifestyle factors (e.g., social support, religiosity) was linked to reduced reliance on sleep for better memory retrieval. Conversely, low social support was linked with stronger associations between poor sleep quality and poor memory performance. In brief, protective factors, such as social support and religiosity may protect against age and race-related sleep disparities as well as the cognitive consequences of poor sleep.


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