Clinical and Polysomnographic Predictors of the Natural History of Poor Sleep in the General Population

Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Alexandros N. Vgontzas, Edward O. Bixler, Ravi Singareddy, Michele L. Shaffer, Susan L. Calhoun, Maria Karataraki, Antonio Vela-Bueno, Duanping Liao

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83 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Approximately 8-10% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia, whereas another 20-30% of the population has insomnia symptoms at any given time (i.e., poor sleep). However, few longitudinal studies have examined risk factors of the natural history of poor sleep, and none have examined the role of polysomnographic (PSG) variables. Design: Representative longitudinal study. Setting: Sleep laboratory. Participants: From a random, general population sample of 1,741 individuals of the adult Penn State Cohort, 1,395 were followed up after 7.5 yr. Measurements: Full medical evaluation and 1-night PSG at baseline and telephone interview at follow-up. Results: The rate of incident poor sleep was 18.4%. Physical (e.g., obesity, sleep apnea, and ulcer) and mental (e.g., depression) health conditions and behavioral factors (e.g., smoking and alcohol consumption) increased the odds of incident poor sleep as compared to normal sleep. The rates of persistent, remitted, and poor sleepers who developed chronic insomnia were 39%, 44%, and 17%, respectively. Risk factors for persistent poor sleep were physical health conditions combined with psychologic distress. Shorter objective sleep duration and a family history of sleep problems were risk factors for poor sleep evolving into chronic insomnia. Conclusions: Poor sleep appears to be primarily a symptom of physical and mental health conditions, whereas the persistence of poor sleep is associated with psychologic distress. Importantly, sleep apnea appears to be associated with incident poor sleep but not with chronic insomnia. Finally, this study suggests that objective short sleep duration in poor sleepers is a biologic marker of genetic predisposition to chronic insomnia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-697
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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