Sleep: a marker of physical and mental health in the elderly

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 Oct;14(10):860-6. doi: 10.1097/


Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the occurrence and recognition of common sleep-related problems and their relationship to health-related quality-of-life measures in the elderly.

Method: A total of 1,503 participants with a mean age of 75.5 (+/- 6.8, range: 62-100) years from 11 primary care sites serving primarily elderly patients were interviewed. Subjects completed a five-item sleep questionnaire and the SF-12. A Physical Component Summary (PCS-12) and Mental Component Summary (MCS-12) score was calculated. A systematic medical chart review was conducted to determine whether sleep problems were identified by the healthcare providers.

Results: A total of 68.9% of patients reported at least one sleep complaint and 40% had two or more. Participants most commonly endorsed (45%) that they had "difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or being able to sleep." The number and type of sleep problems endorsed was associated with both physical and mental health quality-of-life status. Excessive daytime sleepiness was the best predictor of poor mental and physical health-related quality of life. Even when all five sleep questions were endorsed, a sleep complaint was only reported in the chart 19.2% of the time.

Conclusions: When elicited, sleep complaints predicted the general physical and mental health-related quality-of-life status in elderly populations with comorbid medical and mental illnesses. Yet, questions regarding sleep are not an integral component of most clinical evaluations. Given the growing evidence of a relationship between sleep and health, identification of sleep disorders could lead to improved management of common age-related chronic illnesses and quality of life of elderly patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires