Subjective sleep quality deteriorates with aging, but the extent to which this is a product of age itself, as opposed to the medical or psychiatric problems associated with aging, has not been carefully studied. To investigate this issue, we examined the subjective sleep quality of 44 healthy subjects over 80 years of age (20 men, 24 women), and 35 healthy subjects [corrected] between the ages of 20 and 30 (23 men, 12 women) using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). All subjects underwent rigorous medical and psychiatric evaluations to verify that they were in excellent physical and psychological health. Significant age effects were noted for the global PSQI score and several PSQI component scores, but overall sleep quality for the majority (68.1%) of 80-yr-olds fell within a categorically defined range for "good" sleepers. Measures of habitual sleep quality did not correlate strongly with most polysomnographic sleep measures, number of medications used or circadian measures in elderly subjects. These results show that subjective sleep quality does deteriorate in the healthy elderly, but not to the level seen in patients with sleep disorders. Extremely healthy elderly subjects appear to adapt in their perception of objectively disturbed sleep.