From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published March 2, 2012 08:53 AM

Study: Older People Sleep Better

A new study from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania has found that aging is not a factor in poor sleep. The study surveyed more than 150,000 Americans about the quality of their sleep and found that the quality actually improves over time. The fewest complaints of poor sleep came from people in their 80's. It was a popular belief that older adults wake up more frequently in the night than young adults This old notion has now been turned on its head.


The study has appeared in the journal, Sleep, a publication operated by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

The survey asked the 155,877 adults about sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue, as well as general questions about age, income, education, ethnicity, mood, and general health.

First of all, the researchers found that health problems and depressions were associated with poor sleep. Also, women reported more sleep disturbances and daytime tiredness than men.

Then they noticed a slight uptick in sleep problems during middle age (more in women than men). After this, sleep quality continually improved into their elderly years.

"Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger adults, feelings about it still improve with age," said Michael Grandner, PhD, lead author of the study. "Once you factor out things like illness and depression, older people should be reporting better sleep. If they're not, they need to talk to their doctor. They shouldn't just ignore it."

The original intent of the study, according to Grandner, was to confirm that sleep problems increased with age. However, the results flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

This has significant implications for older adults. In general, physicians may dismiss sleep complaints as a normal part of aging. But according to the new study, ignoring sleep problems is no longer valid, as it likely has more to do with health problems or depression.

For more on sleep disorders from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

Sleeping Man image via Shutterstock

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