Risk factors for excessive sleepiness in older adults

Ann Neurol. 2006 Jun;59(6):893-904. doi: 10.1002/ana.20863.


Objective: To determine risk factors for excessive daytime sleepiness in older adults.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional study assessing multiple risk factors for excessive daytime sleepiness in older subjects (mean age, 78 years; range 65-98 years) with (n=149) and without (n=144) complaints of frequent excessive daytime sleepiness. Assessment of risk factors included full in-laboratory sleep studies.

Results: Excessive sleepiness among the elderly is multifactorial. Multivariable modeling identified the following as simultaneously significant risk factors for excessive sleepiness: severe sleep-disordered breathing (apnea-hypopnea index, >30 episodes/hr), self-report of poor sleep quality, increased percentage of time in rapid eye movement sleep, pain at night at least three times per week, wheezing or whistling from chest at night, and medications with sleepiness as a side effect. Male sex also was associated with increased risk, whereas alcohol use (more than seven beverages per week) reduced the risk for sleepiness. Multiple risk factors were more commonly present in those with complaints of sleepiness. The presence of periodic limb movements, which are common in older adults, was not associated with sleepiness.

Interpretation: There is a distinct differential diagnosis of excessive daytime sleepiness in older adults. Many of the risk factors that we identified are treatable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*