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Aging News & Information

Assumption that Senior Citizens Do Not Sleep Well Appears to be Myth

Most seniors have sleep habits very similar to those of young adults, study finds

Nov. 19, 2012 – Senior citizens often complain of sleeping difficulties. So much so that most assume there is a connection between old age and sleeping problems. It is not so, says a new study. Most people aged 65 and older report sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. as they should.

The commonly held assumptions are that most elderly go to bed early and have trouble sleeping through the night, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Sleep and Chronobiology Center (SCC) and University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR).

Their new study, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, was conducted over five years and is among the first to provide empirical self-report data on the timing, quality and duration of sleep, as well as levels of daytime sleepiness in a large sample of retired older adults.

 

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"Our findings suggest that in matters regarding sleep and sleepiness, as in many other aspects of life, most seniors today are doing better than is generally thought," said Timothy H. Monk, Ph.D., D.Sc., the study's lead author and professor of psychiatry at UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

"The stereotype of most seniors going to bed at 8 p.m., sleeping very lightly and being unduly sleepy during the day may be quite inaccurate, suggesting that 60 really is the new 40."

Researchers based the study, published in the journal Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly, on extensive telephone interviews with nearly 1,200 retired seniors in western Pennsylvania. About 25 percent said they slept less than 6.7 hours per night and experienced problems with nocturnal sleep and daytime sleepiness. The remaining 75 percent reported sleeping more than 6.75 hours, on average.

According to the authors, past studies have highlighted the chronic sleep disruption often experienced by older adults, but few of these prior reviews were supported by strong empirical data and many concentrated on illness, thereby furthering stereotypical beliefs that older adults sleep for shorter periods of time, go to bed and rise very early, and experience daytime sleepiness.

Additional observations include:

   ● Age-related sleep issues in seniors may depend largely on the health of the individual, rather than on the age of that individual

   ● Most seniors do not have reliably earlier bedtimes than younger adults and report obtaining at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night

   ● Daytime sleepiness in seniors often can be associated with medications, illnesses and poor nocturnal sleep, and may not be necessarily associated with age

"The take-away for older adults is that if you can keep yourself healthy and avoid or treat age-related diseases and disorders, then you'll be able to sleep like a younger adult," added Dr. Monk. "Although some seniors do have huge sleep problems which need to be understood and treated, the majority of seniors are not reporting significant problems with either nocturnal sleep or daytime sleepiness."

Dr. Monk currently is leading another study called the AgeWise program funded by the National Institute on Aging which is studying various aspects of sleep in seniors in the laboratory. The AgeWise program is looking for volunteers in the greater Pittsburgh area and can be reached toll-free at 1-866-647-8283.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. For more information about the School of Medicine, see www.medschool.pitt.edu.


More links to news about sleep and senior citizens

Aging Eyes with Yellowing Lens Linked to Sleepless Nights for Senior Citizens

Cataract could be factor in frequent insomnia among elderly; sleep quality has improved after cataract surgery - Sept. 1, 2011


Older Men at High Risk of High Blood Pressure If Not Getting Ample Deep Sleep

Reduced level of dreamless, deep sleep is powerful predictor of hypertension; as important to health as diet and exercise - Aug. 29, 2011


Older Women with Sleep-Disordered Breathing at Risk of Cognitive Decline, Dementia

Findings suggest potential role for supplemental oxygen for sleep-disordered breathing in elderly - Aug. 9, 2011


Senior Citizens with Sleep Problems May Have Suffered Emotional Abuse in Childhood

Research points specifically to emotional abuse, rather than physical abuse or emotional neglect

June 8, 2011


Researchers Add Colon Cancer to List of Physical Problems Possible from Lack of Sleep

Inadequate sleep previously associated with higher risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and death

Feb. 8, 2011


Sleep Apnea Linked to Increased Risk of Stroke; Doubles Danger for Older Men

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Healthy People Need Less Sleep as They Age; Seniors Should Not Be Sleepy in Daytime

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Tests for Obstructive Sleep Apnea to be Covered by Medicare

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March 4, 2009

Sleep Apnea Connection to Stroke and Death Explained by New Study

One in 10 senior citizens suffer with sleep apnea that is more common as people age

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Sleeping Less than 7.5 Hours Daily May Cause Heart Disease for Elderly with Hypertension

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Elderly Women Increase Their Risk of Falling with Less Than Five Hours Sleep

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Study Indicates Older People Just Need Less Sleep than Young Adults

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Older Women Who Nap Less, Go Back to Sleep Easily Achieve Healthy Aging

Study of  2,226 senior women, sixty and older, finds 20.8% are “successful agers”.

June 11, 2008


Graphic Brain Scans Shows Memory Loss from Sleep Apnea

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June 11, 2008


Sleep Disruption Linked to Increased Cardiovascular Risk

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Older Men Living at Home Survive Longer with Undisturbed Sleep and 'Robust Rhythms'

Regular sleep routine – to bed and up at regular times – means good health for senior men

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Snoring Linked to Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension and Stroke

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Harvard Wants America to Sleep Better and Contributes New Interactive Website

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Three New Studies Focus on Problems in Sleeping for Senior Citizens

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Reducing or Increasing Sleep Leads to More Deaths from Different Causes

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Risk of Death Doubles from Too Little or Too Much Sleep Says British Study

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Ohio Scientists Pushing Blue-Blocking Glasses, Lights to Improve Sleep

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Kicking Spouse in Bed at Night Can Now Be Blamed on Your Genes


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Sleep Problems Among the Elderly Linked to Suicide Risk

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Sleep Disruption Linked to Increased Cardiovascular Risk

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Mistake for Doctors to Neglect Insomnia Treatment in Older Patients

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Tips for Senior Citizens to Get a Good Nights Sleep Offered by Longevity Center

New report issued: The Role of Sleep In Healthy Aging

December 7, 2006


Sleep Studies of Older People Find Behavioral Treatment Helps Insomnia; Women Endangered by Restless Legs

October 2, 2006


Sleep Evaluation Should be Routine Medical Care Says Editorial

September 18, 2006


Advice for Senior Citizens on Finding a Good Night's Sleep

Research finds that sleep problems grow with the accumulation of illnesses, not years.

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