Are sleep onset/maintenance difficulties associated with medical or psychiatric comorbidities in nondemented community-dwelling older adults?

Molly E. Zimmerman, Marcelo E. Bigal, Mindy J. Katz, Carol A. Derby, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Older adults frequently report disruptions in their ability to initiate and maintain sleep. It remains unclear whether these sleep problems are consequent to associated medical comorbidities or if they represent primary sleep disturbances that exist independent of other disorders of senescence. Herein we describe sleep characteristics and associated medical and psychiatric comorbidities among ethnically diverse nondemented older adults. Methods: The cross-sectional sample consisted of 702 participants drawn from the Einstein Aging Study (EAS), a community- based study of aging. Sleep onset/maintenance difficulties (SO/MD) were ascertained using responses from the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale (MOS-SS). Participants also completed assessments of medical history, psychological symptoms, and medication use. Results: Participants were an average of 80 ± 5.5 years of age and had 14 ± 3.4 years of education. Older adults reported sleeping an average of 6.5 ± 1.2 h/night. Mild SO/MD was reported in 43% of participants, while moderate/severe SO/MD was reported in 12% of participants. Sleep problems were associated with measures of obesity and symptoms of depression and anxiety. SO/MD was not associated with history of common medical conditions. Use rates of insomnia medication were low (0% to 3%). Conclusions: The prevalence of SO/MD is high in the elderly community-dwelling population and is associated with common psychiatric disorders. With the exception of obesity, SO/MD is not associated with common medical disorders. Further study is necessary to disentangle the nature of the relationship between sleep disturbance and psychiatric comorbidity among older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-369
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 28 2013



  • Anxiety
  • Comorbidities
  • Depression
  • Elderly
  • Insomnia
  • Medical history
  • Older adults
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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