Background. Reports of insomnia symptoms are common among the elderly. However, little is known about the relationship between insomnia symptoms and objective assessments of sleep in the general population of older adults. We assessed concordance between insomnia symptoms and actigraphic sleep characteristics in a nationally representative sample of older Americans.
Methods. In a national probability sample of 727 adults aged 62–91 years in 2010–2011 from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, respondents were asked how often they (a) feel rested when they wake up, (b) have trouble falling asleep, (c) have trouble with waking up during the night, and (d) have trouble waking up too early and not being able to fall asleep again. Responses to these questions were compared to sleep characteristics estimated from three nights of actigraphy for the same individuals. Statistical analyses were adjusted for age, gender, race and ethnicity, income, assets, and education.
Results. Feeling rested (Question (a), above) was not correlated with any actigraphy-estimated sleep characteristics. Questions (b)–(d) each had several significant correlations with the actigraphy metrics, but generally not with the specific objective sleep characteristics that each question intended to reference. In some cases, the associations were not in the expected direction.
Conclusions. Although three of four questions about insomnia symptoms were significantly associated with objectively estimated sleep characteristics, responses seem to be general indicators of sleep quality rather than reports of specific sleep characteristics.