Aging and sleep: physiology and pathophysiology

Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Oct;31(5):618-33. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1265902. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


Aging effects on sleep are important to consider for the practicing pulmonologist due to the increase in prevalence of major respiratory disorders as well as the normal changes that occur in sleep patterns with aging. Typically, aging is associated with decreases in the amount of slow wave sleep and increases in stage 1 and 2 non-rapid eye movement sleep, often attributed to an increased number of spontaneous arousals that occur in the elderly. Elderly individuals tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake earlier due to a phase advance in their normal circadian sleep cycle. Furthermore the development of sleep-related respiratory disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea or Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSA-CSR) associated with congestive heart failure (CHF) occur with increasing prevalence in the elderly. The development of such disorders is often of major concern because they are associated with systemic hypertension and cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and impaired neurocognition. The present review reflects the current understanding of the normal changes in sleep patterns and sleep needs with advancing age, in addition to the effect that aging has on the predisposition to and consequences of OSA and CSA-CSR associated with CHF.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*