Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Older Adults

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Complaints of sleep disturbance increase with age. Objective sleep assessments using polysomnography reveal sleep impairments (increased wakefulness and arousal from sleep; decreased slow wave sleep) even in healthy seniors. Both polysomnographic sleep and subjective sleep worsen in the presence of health impairments related to drug use, pain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, or other emotional disorders. In addition to normal aging and chronic disease, sleep complaints can also result from poor sleep habits, specific occult disorders during sleep, or some combination of these factors. Occult disorders include sleep apnea syndrome, periodic leg movements, and restless legs syndrome during sleep. Diagnosis and treatment of these and other sleep disorders is discussed. Both pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments are considered, with an emphasis on behavioral and educative treatment approaches.

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