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Keywords:

  • sleep;
  • polysomnography;
  • questionnaires;
  • aging;
  • sleep apnea;
  • comorbidity

OBJECTIVES: To examine the extent to which subjective and objective sleep quality are related to age independent of chronic health conditions.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: The Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) is a multicenter study designed to determine the cardiovascular consequences and the natural history of sleep disordered breathing.

PARTICIPANTS: Five thousand four hundred seven community-dwelling adults who participated in the SHHS (mean age 63, range 45–99; 52% women).

MEASUREMENTS: Unattended home polysomnography (PSG) and sleep questionnaires.

RESULTS: Older age was associated with shorter sleep time, diminished sleep efficiency, and more arousals in men and women. In men, age was independently associated with more Stage 1 and Stage 2 sleep and less slow-wave (Stage 3 to 4) and rapid eye movement sleep. In women, older age was less strongly associated according to linear trend with sleep stage. Conversely, poor subjective sleep quality was not associated with older age in men, but older women had more trouble falling asleep, and there was a trend toward older women having more problems with waking up during the night and waking up too early. Associations between self-report and directly measured sleep time and sleep latency were low to moderate across age groups (correlation coefficient=0.06–0.32).

CONCLUSION: Older age was more strongly associated with poorer sleep according to PSG in men than women, yet the subjective report of poor sleep with older age was stronger in women. The higher prevalence of chronic health conditions, including sleep apnea, in older adults did not explain changes of sleep parameters with aging and age–sex differences in these relationships.