How many nights are enough? The short-term stability of sleep parameters in elderly insomniacs and normal sleepers

Psychophysiology. 1999 Mar;36(2):233-44.


Temporal stability is an important fundamental quality when measuring sleep parameters, yet it has been infrequently assessed. Generalizability theory was used to estimate the short-term temporal stability of five variables commonly used to characterize insomnia: sleep onset latency, total sleep time, wake after sleep onset, time in bed, and sleep efficiency. Estimates were calculated for 32 elderly primary insomniacs and 32 elderly normal sleepers, both in the lab and at home, using both sleep logs and polysomnography (PSG). A week of recording using either PSG or sleep logs was typically sufficient to achieve adequate stability (defined as G coefficient of at least 0.80) with some notable exceptions: (a) when using log-derived measures with insomniacs, a 3-week average was necessary for wake after sleep onset and (b) more than a 2-week average was necessary for sleep onset latency. Because of the substantial commitment involved in the physiological recording of sleep, alternative forms of aggregation are considered with the intent of improving temporal stability.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*