Background: Sleep disturbance is a common complaint in the general population. There is, however, little cross-national comparative evidence on the prevalence of sleep disturbance and its association with age.
Methods: Cross-sectional data from the third wave of the European Social Survey were used to compare both the prevalence of sleep disturbances and its relationship to age among 27,103 respondents over the age of 40 years from 23 European countries. The outcome measures for the study were based on the proportion of respondents reporting restless sleep over the past week and percentage change in the reporting of restless sleep between the 41–65 age group and the 66 and over age group.
Result: The prevalence rate of sleep disturbance varied between and within age groups, as well as between the 23 European countries. Depressive symptoms (OR = 4.14), anxiety (OR = 2.80), and general health (OR = 1.52) were the strongest correlates of sleep disturbance among both the 41–65 age group and the over 66 age group. The highest positive correlation with change in restless sleep reports occurred with respect to health deterioration. Satisfaction with living standards showed the strongest negative association with change in restless sleep reports.
Conclusion: There is considerable variation in reports of sleep disturbance across different European countries. Being in an older age group appears to be associated with worsening sleep, though not always. Different patterns of sleep disturbance seem to indicate the considerable variability of the aging experience across Europe.