Home-based sleep was monitored by morning logs and wrist actimetry for 15 nights in a sample of 400 adults (20-70 years old; 211 female, 189 male; one per household). Subjects on sleep-enhancing medications and/or whose sleep was severely disturbed by illness were excluded. Subjects were grouped into age bands: ("young" = 20-34 years, "mid-aged" = 35-49 years and "older" = 50-70 years). Women retired to bed and fell asleep earlier than men. Men and women woke up earlier with increasing age. Sleep period time was markedly longer for women. Most reported awakenings were < 5 minutes. Women reported more awakenings, more total time spent awake during the night and poorer sleep quality; all these findings were most evident in the older women, who also took longer to fall asleep than any other group. Although these age effects are consistent with those reported elsewhere, the gender effects, some of which are much stronger than the age effects, have not been so evident before.