A new community-based study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, finds that sleep disorders are common in persons older than 70 years old. While previous community-based studies investigated the prevalence of sleep apnea and insomnia in older adults, this study is the first to assess the frequency of a broad spectrum of sleep disorders, including periodic involuntary limb movements, REM sleep behavior disorder, and restless legs syndrome (RLS).

The study found that the most common disorder among study participants was sleep-related leg cramps, which occurred in 32% of respondents.

As part of the Mayo Clinic’s Study on Aging, 892 people aged 70 to 89 years were assessed for sleep disturbance. Of those in the study, 59% had signs of at least one sleep disorder.

Common sleep disorders were found as follows:
•    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – 17.6%
•    Periodic, involuntary movements in the legs or arms during sleep – 17.4%
•    REM sleep behavior disorder – 9%
•    RLS – 8%

Additionally, men in the study experienced sleep disorders more often than women. Men were four times more likely to have OSA than were women.