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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1992 Aug;40(8):779-86.

Napping and 24-hour sleep/wake patterns in healthy elderly and young adults.



To examine differences between healthy elderly and young adults in daytime napping, nocturnal sleep, and 24-hour sleep/wake patterns. A second objective was to determine whether elderly subjects with more and less frequent naps differed in their clinical features or nocturnal sleep.


Survey by sleep/wake logs and polysomnography. Comparison by age.


Sleep/wake logs were completed in the subjects' homes. Polysomnographic studies were conducted on an outpatient basis in a sleep and chronobiology research laboratory.


Convenience samples of forty-five healthy subjects over 78 years of age (21M, 24F) and 33 healthy adults between 20 and 30 years of age (20M, 13F).


Using self-reports, we estimated the frequency and timing of daytime naps; timing, duration, and quality of nocturnal sleep; and 24-hour patterns of sleep and wakefulness. Also polysomnographic sleep measures.


Compared to young adults, elderly subjects reported a greater mean number of daytime naps (P = .004), shorter nocturnal sleep with more wakefulness and earlier sleep hours (P less than .003 for each), and a trend for a shorter 24-hour sleep fraction. Among the elderly, more-frequent and less-frequent nappers did not differ in clinical ratings, self-report sleep measures, or polysomnographic measures. There was a trend for more sleep-disordered breathing and periodic limb movements in more frequent nappers.


These findings are consistent with an age-related decrease in amplitude of the circadian sleep propensity rhythm, or with the expression of a semi-circadian (12-hour) sleepiness rhythm. However, we cannot exclude the additional possibility that napping results from lifestyle factors and nocturnal sleep pathologies in a subset of the elderly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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