Sleep complaints in community-dwelling older persons: prevalence, associated factors, and reported causes

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1998 Feb;46(2):161-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1998.tb02533.x.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence rates of self-reported sleep complaints and their association with health-related factors.

Design: A cross-sectional study.

Setting: People living in the community.

Participants: A total of 2398 noninstitutionalized individuals, aged 65 years and older, residing in the Veneto region, northeast Italy.

Measurements: Odds ratios for the association of sleep complaints with potential risk factors.

Results: The prevalence of insomnia was 36% in men and 54% in women, with increased risks for women (odds ratio (OR) = 1.69, 95% CI: 1.3-2.1), depression (OR = 1.93, 95% CI, 1.5-2.5), and regular users of sleep medications (OR = 5.58, 95% CI, 4.3-7.3). About 26% of men and 21% of women reported no sleep complaints. Night awakening, reported by about two-thirds of the participants, was the most common sleep disturbance. Women and regular users of sleep medications had significantly increased odds for insomnia and for not feeling rested upon awakening in the morning. Depressive symptomatology was more strongly associated with insomnia and night awakening than with awakening not rested, whereas physical disability was more strongly associated with awakening not rested than with the other two sleep disturbances.

Conclusion: Our findings show that sleep complaints, highly common among older Italians, are associated with a wide range of medical conditions and with the use of sleep medications. Further longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the causes and the negative health consequences of sleep disturbances to improve both the diagnosis and treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives