Study Objectives: Cross-sectional studies suggest that insomnia symptoms are associated with falls in later life. This longitudinal study examines the independent and interactive effects of the extent of insomnia symptoms (i.e., multiple co-existing insomnia symptoms) and sleep medications on fall risk over a 2-year follow-up among community-dwelling older adults.
Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (2006-2014, N = 6882, Mage = 74.5 years ± 6.6 years), we calculated the extent of insomnia symptoms (range = 0-4) participants reported (i.e., trouble falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up too early, and not feeling rested). At each wave, participants reported recent sleep medications use and falls since the last wave, and were evaluated for balance and walking speed.
Results: A greater burden of insomnia symptoms and using physician-recommended sleep medications at baseline independently predicted falling after adjusting for known risk factors of falling. The effects of insomnia symptoms on fall risk differed by sleep medications use. The extent of insomnia symptoms exhibited a positive, dose-response relation with risk of falling among those not using sleep medications. Older adults using physician-recommended sleep medications exhibited a consistently higher fall risk irrespective of the extent of insomnia symptoms.
Conclusions: The number of insomnia symptoms predicts 2-year fall risk in older adults. Taking physician-recommended sleep medications increases the risks for falling in older adults, irrespective of the presence of insomnia symptoms. Future efforts should be directed toward treating insomnia symptoms, and managing and selecting sleep medications effectively to decrease the risk of falling in older adults.
- insomnia symptoms
- older adults
- sleep medications
- walking speed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Physiology (medical)