Study objectives: Common sleep hygiene practices were examined in 2 community-based samples of older adults to determine which practices differentiated 4 sleep subgroups: noncomplainers without insomnia symptoms, complainers without insomnia symptoms, noncomplainers with insomnia symptoms, and complainers with insomnia symptoms.
Design: Two weeks of sleep diaries provided napping and bed/out-of-bed time variability data. A retrospective questionnaire provided data on caffeine, cigarette, and alcohol usage. Recruitment involved random digit dialing (Sample 1) and advertisements (Sample 2).
Setting: Memphis, TN area (Sample 1); Gainesville, FL area (Sample 2).
Participants: 310 individuals 60-96 years (Sample 1); 103 individuals 60-89 years (Sample 2).
Measurements and results: Older individuals with sleep complaints did not report engaging in poorer sleep hygiene practices than those without complaints with the exception of frequency of napping. For Sample 1 only, complainers reported napping on 1.5-2.0 more days per week than noncomplainers. Sleep subgroups in both samples did not differ for the other sleep hygiene practices studied.
Conclusions: Overall, sleep hygiene behaviors did not differentiate the 4 sleep subgroups. The efficacy of sleep hygiene as a therapy for late life insomnia appears questionable in this context. Both complaining sleep subgroups napped more frequently than both noncomplaining subgroups in Sample 1. Additional research is needed to clarify the clinical implications of nap frequency as these results did not replicate in Sample 2, and the impact of napping on nighttime sleep remains unclear. Inconsistencies with previous research in younger samples support the need for more research specifically targeting older individuals' sleep patterns and behaviors.