The purpose of this cross-sectional survey was to examine subjective sleep quality, and identify factors that disturb sleep in cognitively intact nursing home (NH) residents. We interviewed 51 cognitively intact NH residents using a validated instrument, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Questions regarding the environment, symptoms suggestive of restless leg syndrome, and periodic leg movements were also asked. Three individuals were unable to answer all the questions and, therefore, analyses were performed on 48 subjects. Seventy-three percent of the subjects were identified as "poor" sleepers based upon a total PSQI score > 5. Factors that disturbed the residents' sleep three or more times a week were: nocturia (71%), environment-related noise or light (38%), pain (33%), feeling too hot (6%) and leg cramps (6%). On multiple regression analysis, poor sleep correlated with depressive symptoms and comorbidity, not with age or gender. Poor sleep quality is common among cognitively intact NH residents. In our study, nocturia, environmental factors and pain were the most commonly perceived causes of sleep disturbance. Poor sleep independently correlated with depressive symptoms and comorbidity. These findings should be kept in mind when evaluating sleep complaints in the nursing home.