Automated sleep stage classification using heart rate variability (HRV) may provide an ergonomic and low-cost alternative to gold standard polysomnography, creating possibilities for unobtrusive home-based sleep monitoring. Current methods however are limited in their ability to take into account long-term sleep architectural patterns. A long short-term memory (LSTM) network is proposed as a solution to model long-term cardiac sleep architecture information and validated on a comprehensive data set (292 participants, 584 nights, 541.214 annotated 30 s sleep segments) comprising a wide range of ages and pathological profiles, annotated according to the Rechtschaffen and Kales (R&K) annotation standard. It is shown that the model outperforms state-of-the-art approaches which were often limited to non-temporal or short-term recurrent classifiers. The model achieves a Cohen’s k of 0.61 ± 0.15 and accuracy of 77.00 ± 8.90% across the entire database. Further analysis revealed that the performance for individuals aged 50 years and older may decline. These results demonstrate the merit of deep temporal modelling using a diverse data set and advance the state-of-the-art for HRV-based sleep stage classification. Further research is warranted into individuals over the age of 50 as performance tends to worsen in this sub-population.