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Keywords:

  • age;
  • gender;
  • sleep patterns;
  • sleep stages;
  • sleeping at home

The sleep of 52 healthy paid subjects (23 male) divided into three age-bands (20–34, 35–49 and 50–70 y) were recorded at night in their homes for a total of 190 subject-nights while following their normal daily activities and habitual sleep-wake schedule. There was a shortening in both nocturnal total sleep period and total sleep time (TST) with age, the oldest group sleeping 46 min less than the youngest. Also, the mid-point of sleep occurred 32 min earlier in the oldest group compared with the youngest group. The reduction in TST with age was due, in part, to increased wake periods within sleep. The youngest subjects showed more Movement Time which progressively decreased with age while the amount of stage 1 increased with age. The amount of slow-wave sleep (SWS, stages 3+4) was reduced, stage 4 was more than halved, while REM was slightly reduced with age. There were far fewer significant gender differences in the sleep variables: males, particularly in the middle and oldest age bands, had more stage 1 than females, while females had more SWS, particularly stage 3, than males. In general, despite relatively limited subject selection criteria, there was good agreement with previous laboratory-based normative sleep values for the effect of age and gender.