Geriatric Sleep Research Program

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Insomnia in the Elderly


Insomnia is an extremely common complaint among the elderly. Appropriate management of the complaint of insomnia requires delineation of the relevant role of different causative factors. But currently, no standard method to evaluate insomnia has been established, although approaches have been proposed. There are controversies both about the role of in-laboratory sleep studies and the subjective complaint of insomnia. These controversies reflect, in our view, the fact that the scientific basis for insomnia in the elderly is not fully developed and there is a need to develop a fundamental framework.

To address these issues, we are conducting a case-control study of insomnia in older adults. The study is rooted in the physiology of the control of sleep and waking, and hence we will first address our core question, namely what is the relative role of age-related changes in the circadian system and sleep homeostatic drive in the causation of insomnia? We will also address whether sleep apnea and nocturnal myoclonus are risk factors for insomnia in the elderly and whether physiological changes in the sleep and circadian processes compound the effects of these disorders and other disease that lead to sleep interruption.

Funding Agency

National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health

Participating Staff

Allan Pack, Principal Investigator
David Dinges, co-Principal Investogator
Greg Maislin, biostatistician
Jacqueline Cater, biostatistician
Nalaka Gooneratne
Frances Pack, research coordinator
Erin O’Brien, research coordinator