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Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2010 Dec;8(4):235-41. doi: 10.1684/pnv.2010.0232.

[Geriatric approach of sleep disorders in the elderly].

[Article in French]

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Centre de gériatrie, CHU Pitié Salpêtrière, AP-HP, UPMC-ParisVI, Paris, France.


Sleep complaints and disorders are frequent in geriatric patients, with a prevalence of 57%. They result in increased morbidity and mortality. In this population, the primary goal is to search for a cause of secondary insomnia, such as organic or psychiatric diseases, or medications. In those cases, sleep will improve with the treatment of the cause. In the cases of primary insomnia, behavioral and sleep hygiene therapy are essential. Hypnotics have frequent side effects and should be avoided when possible. Prescription of small doses of benzodiazepines or related drugs should only be for a short period of time. Molecules with a short half life are to be preferred. Other sleep disorders include sleep apnea syndrome, restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movements, which are the most frequent diagnoses in an elderly population. In the restless legs syndrome, diagnostic workup must include the search for a cause and treatment should favor hygienic measures. The use of dopamine agonists must be cautious, as their tolerance is poor in the elderly. Periodic limb movements are also frequent but there is no particular therapeutic recommendation.

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