SUMMARY The following four issues were assessed in a group of 110 adults between the age of 20 and 59y: (1) the effect of age (regarded as a continuous variable) on polysomnographic sleep characteristics, habitual sleep-diary patterns, and subjective sleep quality; (2) the effects of age on morningness-eveningness; (3) the effects of morningness-eveningness on sleep, after controlling for the effects of age; and (4) the role of morningness-eveningness as a mediator of the age and sleep relationship. Increasing age was related to earlier habitual waketime, earlier bedtime, less time in bed and better mood and alertness at waketime. In the laboratory, increasing age was associated with less time asleep, increased number of awakenings, decreased sleep efficiency, lower percentages of slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, higher percentages of Stage 1 and 2, shorter REM latency and reduced REM activity and density. Increasing age was also associated with higher morningness scores. After controlling for the effects of age, morningness was associated with earlier waketime, earlier bedtime, less time in bed, better alertness at waketime, less time spent asleep, more wake in the last 2 h of sleep, decreased REM activity, less stage REM (min and percentage), more Stage 1 (min and percentage) and fewer minutes of Stage 2. For one set of variables (night time in bed, waketime, total sleep time, wake in the last 2 h of sleep and minutes of REM and REM activity), morningness-eveningness accounted for about half of the relationship between age and sleep. For another set of variables (bedtime, alertness at waketime, percentages of REM and Stage 1), morningness-eveningness accounted for the entire relationship between age and sleep. In conclusion, age and morningness were both important predictors of the habitual sleep patterns and polysomnographic sleep characteristics of people in the middle years of life (20-59 y).