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Many seniors sleep like younger adults

Filed in
  • Aging
  • sleep length

By Lynn Celmer  |  Nov 29, 2012
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Researchers found that more than half of all retired people aged 65 and over report sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., contrary to commonly held assumptions that most elderly go to bed early and have trouble sleeping through the night.

"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, PhD, DSc, 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."

The study appears in the November 21, 2012 issue of the journal Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly. The study involved extensive phone 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 6.7 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.

"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." 


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