Daily worry, rumination, and sleep in late life

Zexi Zhou, Kira S. Birditt, Kate A. Leger, Karen L. Fingerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Perseverative thinking (e.g., worry/rumination) is a common response to stress, and can be detrimental to well-being. Sleep may represent an important mechanism by which perseverative thinking is disrupted or amplified from day to day. This study examined the associations between older adults' everyday worry, rumination, and sleep. Methods: Older adults (N = 270) aged 65–89 completed a baseline interview and morning and evening assessments each day for 5–6 days. Every morning, they indicated their worry toward the day and their sleep duration and disturbances the prior night. Every evening, they rated worry and rumination experienced that day. Results: Multilevel models showed that perseverative thinking predicted worse sleep (i.e., fewer hours of sleep) at the between-person level (B = −0.29, p =.004) but better sleep (i.e., fewer sleep disturbances) at the within-person level (Bs < −0.18, ps <.003). At the within-person level, more hours of sleep (B = −0.06, p =.04) and fewer sleep disturbances (B = 0.10, p <.001) predicted less worry the next morning. Prior night's worry predicted greater next morning's worry, but this association was significant only when older adults reported fewer-than-usual hours of sleep (B = 0.24, p <.001), not when they reported more-than-usual hours of sleep (B = 0.04, p =.61). Conclusion: Findings suggest that worry and rumination are intimately linked with sleep and highlight the protective role that better sleep may play in reducing older adults' everyday perseverative thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111622
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
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  • Daily diary
  • Older adults
  • Perseverative thinking
  • Rumination
  • Sleep
  • Worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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