Complaints of sleep difficulty are common among the elderly. In a National Institute on Aging study of over 9,000 persons aged 65 years and older, over one half of the men and women reported at least one chronic sleep complaint. (Foley, 1995) 1 The consequences of chronic sleep problems can be considerable. Loss of sleep or chronic use of sedating medications may lead to falls and accidents.4,5 Sleep-disordered breathing may have serious cardiovascular, pulmonary and central nervous system effects. Evidence supports a strong association between sleep apnea and hypertension.6–8 In persons with dementia, severe sleep disruption often leads to nursing home placement. For all of these reasons, sleep problems in elderly patients should be properly evaluated and treated. (Neubauer, 1999) 2


Do you have any problems with sleep?
If you answered yes to the above:

  • Any history of snoring/nocturnal choking and gasping or unrestful sleep?
  • Any history of daytime napping, difficulty falling asleep, or multiple awakening’s during sleep, use of sleep aids or over the counters for sleep?
  • How many times do you wake to urinate at night? 
  • Do you have any unusual behaviours or movements during sleep?
  • Are your legs restless while you are trying to fall asleep?
  • What do you do before going to sleep (caffeine, stimulating activities)?

Additional resources:

  1. Foley DJ, Monjan AA, Brown SL, Simonsick EM, Wallace RB, Blazer DG. Sleep complaints among elderly persons: an epidemiologic study of three communities. Sleep. 1995;18:425–32.
  2. Neubauer, D. (1999) Sleep problems in the elderly. American Family Physician. 59(9):2551-2558.