Sleep Continuity, Sleep Related Daytime Dysfunction, and Problem Endorsement: Do These Vary Concordantly by Age?

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OBJECTIVES: Sleep continuity (i.e., ability to initiate and/or maintain sleep) worsens with age. It is unclear whether problem endorsement and/or daytime dysfunction show similar age-related trends. Accordingly, a large archival dataset was used to examine age differences in sleep continuity, problem endorsement, and sleep related daytime dysfunction.

METHOD: Participants were categorized as: Young Adults (18-29 years); Adults (30-44 years); Middle Aged Adults (45-64 years); and Older Adults (65-89 years). Young Adults, Adults, and Middle Aged Adults were 1:1 matched with Older Adults (n = 233) on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and BMI. MANOVA, ANOVAs, and chi-square analysis were performed to assess for age-related differences.

RESULTS: In a sample of 932 adults with self-reported sleep continuity disturbance (i.e., insomnia), sleep continuity was significantly worse in older age groups. This effect was limited to middle and late insomnia with middle aged and older adults waking up with greater frequency and for longer durations of time during the night and in the early morning than younger cohorts. Problem endorsement largely increased across age groups (except for sleep latency) but reports of overall sleep-related daytime dysfunction showed no difference by age.

CONCLUSION: When evaluating sleep continuity disturbance, assessing whether the patient identifies their sleep continuity disturbance as a problem and whether it affects their daytime function can be informative, particularly in older adults. It may serve to reveal (case-by-case) when there are discordances between incidence/severity of illness and problem endorsement/daytime dysfunction. Such information may better inform if treatment should be initiated.

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Behavioral Sleep Medicine

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This article was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, pages 1-12.

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