Sleep in old age: focus on gender differences

Sleep. 1990 Oct;13(5):410-24.


A meta-analysis was conducted on 27 studies addressing gender differences on 31 indices of sleeping behavior of persons 58 years of age and older. All pertinent, original research articles published in the United States in the last decade were included. New findings were compared with summaries from earlier studies to complete a picture of current knowledge. Effect sizes were calculated for 23 variables related to sleep continuity, architecture, and pathology; and effect sizes were averaged across studies. Gender difference effect sizes were small to moderate, with men tending to show more objective changes from the patterns of healthy youthful sleep. Results underscore the importance of health providers having an understanding of gender and age in relation to sleep. Findings suggest the need to protect the lighter, more fragile sleep of the elderly; to encourage regularity in sleep patterns; and to use sleep-inducing medications with caution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Wakefulness / physiology