Insomnia in the Elderly: A Review

J Clin Sleep Med. 2018 Jun 15;14(6):1017-1024. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.7172.


Background: Insomnia remains one of the most common sleep disorders encountered in the geriatric clinic population, frequently characterized by the subjective complaint of difficulty falling or maintaining sleep, or nonrestorative sleep, producing significant daytime symptoms including difficulty concentrating and mood disturbances.

Methods: A search of the literature was conducted to review the epidemiology, definition, and age-related changes in sleep, as well as factors contributing to late-life insomnia and scales utilized for the assessment of insomnia in older people. The aim is to summarize recent diagnostic guidelines and both nonpharmacological and pharmacological strategies for the management of insomnia in the older population.

Results: Insomnia remains a clinical diagnosis. There are several demographic, psychosocial, biologic, and behavioral factors that can contribute to late-life insomnia. Older adults are at higher risk for the medical and psychiatric effects of insomnia.

Conclusions: The most important aspect in evaluation of insomnia is detailed history taking and thorough physical examination. Nonpharmacological treatment options have favorable and enduring benefits compared to pharmacological therapy.

Keywords: cognitive behavioral therapy; elderly; insomnia; pharmacological treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*