To study the prevalence of reported sleep disturbances and the association between these complaints and psychological status, 529 randomly selected subjects aged 20-45 years were questioned about their sleep symptoms and psychological status by means of questionnaires. In this young population, feeling refreshed in the morning almost every day was reported by only 15.3%. Females reported a significantly longer mean total sleep time (TST) than males (F: 425 +/- 58 minutes, M: 403 +/- 50 minutes; p < 0.01). Despite this, the difference compared with the reported need of sleep was greater in females (56 +/- 62 minutes) than in males (40 +/- 51 minutes) (p < 0.05). Difficulties maintaining sleep (DMS, > or = 3/week) (F: 20.1%, M: 10.4%; p < 0.01), the absence of feeling refreshed in the morning (F: 36.2%, M: 26.8%; p < 0.05), and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) (F: 23.3%, M: 15.9%; p < 0.05) were significantly more common among females. According to the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, females suffered from anxiety more frequently than males (F: 32.8%, M: 18.9%; p < 0.001). An association was found between anxiety and many sleep disturbances. After making adjustments for age, smoking, snoring, gender and psychological status by means of multiple regression, the gender differences mentioned above remained significant. We conclude that despite a longer TST, females report insufficient sleep, EDS, DMS, and the absence of feeling refreshed in the morning more frequently than males. The higher prevalence of anxiety among females alone cannot explain the gender differences in sleep disturbances seen in this population.