Correlates of daytime sleepiness in 4578 elderly persons: the Cardiovascular Health Study

Sleep. 1998;21(1):27-36. doi: 10.1093/sleep/21.1.27.


Objectives: To describe the prevalence of self-reported daytime sleepiness in older men and women and to describe their relationships with demographic factors, nocturnal complaints, health status, and cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Design: Cross-sectional survey and clinical exam.

Setting: Participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study, 4578 adults aged 65 and older, recruited from a random sample of non-institutionalized Medicare enrollees in four U.S. communities.

Measures: Daytime sleepiness measured by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), magnetic resonance imaging of the brain (MRI), cognitive function tests, and standardized questionnaires for cardiopulmonary symptoms and diseases, depressive symptoms, social support, activities of daily living, physical activity, and current medications.

Results: Approximately 20% of the participants reported that they were "usually sleepy in the daytime". Although elderly black men were less likely to report frequent awakenings than those in the other three race and gender groups, they had significantly higher mean ESS scores. The following were independently associated with higher ESS scores in gender-specific models: non-white race, depression, loud snoring, awakening with dyspnea or snorting, frequent nocturnal awakenings, medications used to treat congestive heart failure, non-use of sleeping pills, a sedentary lifestyle, and limitation of activities of daily living in both men and women; additional correlates included hip circumference and current smoking in men, and hayfever in women. The following were not independently associated with ESS in the models: age, education, use of wine or beer to aid sleep, use of tricyclic antidepressants, long- or short-acting benzodiazepines, asthma, angina, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure itself, forced vital capacity, social support, cognitive function, or MRI evidence of global brain atrophy or white matter abnormality.

Conclusions: Daytime sleepiness is common in the elderly, probably due to nocturnal disturbances such as frequent awakenings and snoring. The occasional use of sleeping pills for insomnia is associated with reduced daytime sleepiness in the elderly, while the use of medications for congestive heart failure is associated with daytime sleepiness. Surprisingly, anatomic abnormalities such as evidence of previous strokes and brain atrophy (as seen on brain MRI scans) were not associated with daytime sleepiness in these non-institutionalized elderly persons.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / epidemiology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution