Sleep disturbances and chronic disease in older adults: results of the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Survey

J Psychosom Res. 2004 May;56(5):497-502. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2004.02.010.


Objective: To assess the association between sleep problems and chronic disease in older adults.

Methods: Self-reported standardized questionnaire data from 1506 community-dwelling men and women aged 55-84 years in the continental United States who completed a 20-min telephone interview when contacted from lists of randomly selected telephone numbers.

Results: A majority of the participants (83%) reported one or more of 11 medical conditions and nearly one in four elderly respondents (age 65-84 years) had major comorbidity (i.e. four or more conditions). Depression, heart disease, bodily pain and memory problems were associated with more prevalent symptoms of insomnia. Other conditions such as obesity, arthritis, diabetes, lung diseases, stroke and osteoporosis were associated with other sleep-related problems such as breathing pauses, snoring, daytime sleepiness, restless legs or insufficient sleep (<6 h nightly).

Conclusions: Poll findings are consistent with epidemiological studies of sleep, aging and chronic disease. These results suggest that the sleep complaints common in older adults are often secondary to their comorbidities and not to aging per se. These types of studies may be useful in promoting sleep awareness among health professionals and among older adults, especially those with heart disease, depression, chronic bodily pain or major comorbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • United States / epidemiology