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Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Jan;34(1):309-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2012.05.018. Epub 2012 Jun 23.

Survival analysis indicates that age-related decline in sleep continuity occurs exclusively during NREM sleep.

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  • 1Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


A common complaint of older persons is disturbed sleep, typically characterized as an inability to return to sleep after waking. As every sleep episode (i.e., time in bed) includes multiple transitions between wakefulness and sleep (which can be subdivided into rapid eye movement [REM] sleep and non-REM [NREM] sleep), we applied survival analysis to sleep data to determine whether changes in the "hazard" (duration-dependent probability) of awakening from sleep and/or returning to sleep underlie age-related sleep disturbances. The hazard of awakening from sleep--specifically NREM sleep--was much greater in older than in young adults. We found, however, that when an individual had spontaneously awakened, the probability of falling back asleep was not greater in young persons. Independent of bout length, the number of transitions between NREM and REM sleep stages relative to number of transitions to wake was approximately 6 times higher in young than older persons, highlighting the difficulty in maintaining sleep in older persons. Interventions to improve age-related sleep complaints should thus target this change in awakenings.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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