Prevalence of self-reported poor sleep in a healthy population aged 50-65

Donald L. Bliwise, Abby C. King, Robin B. Harris, William L. Haskell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Many population-based surveys have reported that the prevalence of poor sleep increases with age. Despite the uniformity of findings, it remains unclear to what extent age-related declines in overall physical health are related to those results. One approach to this problem has been to adjust for such confounding variables multivariately. Some prior studies using this approach have not shown the expected age-related increases in the prevalence of poor sleep. Another approach has been the study of sleep in carefully screened, healthy population. The current study reports the prevalence of disturbed sleep in a population, ages 50-65, carefully screened for physical health as part of an ongoing study of exercise and cardiovascular function. The prevalence of self-reported trouble falling asleep every night or almost every night (1.1% M, 2.6% F), trouble awakening and returning back to sleep (4.4% M, 3.3% F), and use of hypnotic medication at least twice a week (1.6% M, 2.6% F) were consistently lower than in nearly all previous population-based studies of individuals of comparable age. This implies that when overall physical health factors are taken into account a decline in sleep quality is not necessarily an inevitable component of aging per se. As has been shown in other studies, there were small but statistically significant relationships between self-reported depression and poor sleep. Despite the low prevalance of poor sleep, about a third of the population reported feeling not well-rested and/or not getting the sleep they required. The individuals in this study also reported obtaining significantly less sleep relative to normative data from 30 years ago. Taken as a whole, these data raise the possibility of secular trends for individuals to actively curtail the amount of sleep they desire or need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992


  • aging
  • hypnotic medication
  • insomnia
  • menopause
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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