Semin Respir Crit Care Med 2010; 31(5): 618-633
DOI: 10.1055/s-0030-1265902
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Aging and Sleep: Physiology and Pathophysiology

Bradley A. Edwards1 , Denise M. O'Driscoll2 , Asad Ali1 , Amy S. Jordan3 , John Trinder3 , Atul Malhotra1
  • 1Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  • 3Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
12 October 2010 (online)


Aging effects on sleep are important to consider for the practicing pulmonologist due to the increase in prevalence of major respiratory disorders as well as the normal changes that occur in sleep patterns with aging. Typically, aging is associated with decreases in the amount of slow wave sleep and increases in stage 1 and 2 non–rapid eye movement sleep, often attributed to an increased number of spontaneous arousals that occur in the elderly. Elderly individuals tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake earlier due to a phase advance in their normal circadian sleep cycle. Furthermore the development of sleep-related respiratory disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea or Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSA-CSR) associated with congestive heart failure (CHF) occur with increasing prevalence in the elderly. The development of such disorders is often of major concern because they are associated with systemic hypertension and cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and impaired neurocognition. The present review reflects the current understanding of the normal changes in sleep patterns and sleep needs with advancing age, in addition to the effect that aging has on the predisposition to and consequences of OSA and CSA-CSR associated with CHF.


Bradley A EdwardsPh.D. 

Division of Sleep Medicine, Sleep Disorders Research Program, Brigham and Women's Hospital

221 Longwood Ave., 042 BLI, Boston, MA 02115