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CMAJ. 2007 Apr 24;176(9):1299-304.

Sleep and aging: 1. Sleep disorders commonly found in older people.

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Sleep Clinic, Mount Sinai Hospital Center; and the Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Que.


Aging is associated with several well-described changes in patterns of sleep. Typically, there is a phase advance in the normal circadian sleep cycle: older people tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening but also to wake earlier. They may also wake more frequently during the night and experience fragmented sleep. The prevalence of many sleep disorders increases with age. Insomnia, whether primary or secondary to coexistant illness or medication use, is very common among elderly people. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder and narcolepsy, although less common, are frequently not considered for this population. Periodic leg-movement disorder, a frequent cause of interrupted sleep, can be easily diagnosed with electromyography during nocturnal polysomnography. Restless legs syndrome, however, is diagnosed clinically. Snoring is a common sleep-related respiratory disorder; so is obstructive sleep apnea, which is increasingly seen among older people and is significantly associated with cardio-and cerebrovascular disease as well as cognitive impairment.

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