Aging is associated with marked changes in the timing, consolidation and structure of sleep. Older people wake up frequently, get up earlier and have less slow wave sleep than young people, although the extent of these age-related changes differs considerably between individuals. Interindividual differences in homeostatic sleep regulation in young volunteers are associated with the variable-number, tandem-repeat (VNTR) polymorphism (rs57875989) in the coding region of the circadian clock gene PERIOD3 (PER3). However, predictors of these interindividual differences have yet to be identified in older people. Sleep electroencephalographic (EEG) characteristics and circadian rhythms were assessed in 26 healthy older volunteers (55-75 years) selected on the basis of homozygosity for either the long or short allele of the PER3 polymorphism. Homozygosity for the longer allele (PER3(5/5)) associated with a phase-advance in the circadian melatonin profile and an earlier occurrence of the melatonin peak within the sleep episode. Furthermore, older PER3(5/5) participants accumulated more nocturnal wakefulness, had increased EEG frontal delta activity (0.75-1.50 Hz), and decreased EEG frontal sigma activity (11-13 Hz) during non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep compared with PER3(4/4) participants. Our results indicate that the polymorphism in the clock gene PER3 may contribute to interindividual differences in sleep and circadian physiology in older people.