Circadian rhythmicity persists in healthy elderly subjects but a number of 24-hour rhythms are dampened and/or advanced in old age. The tendency for earlier sleep onset, earlier morning awakening and a more fragmented and more shallow sleep period is representative of these alterations. Other overt rhythms which have been shown to be of lower amplitude and/or phase-advanced are those of body temperature and of the peripheral levels of hormones such as cortisol, melatonin, TSH, testosterone, prolactin and GH. Mean hormonal levels are generally decreased, but overall cortisol secretion is increased with ageing. These modifications are likely to be partially due to alterations of the circadian central nervous system processes controlling circadian rhythmicity and sleep.

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