While we tend to think that older people are more prone to sleep issues, such as poor sleep, or early waking, a new study seems to indicate that we actually tend to sleep better as we get older. So much for the common thinking that older people sleep less, or can’t sleep enough.
A new study of 150,000 people indicates that one’s perception of how we sleep actually improves as we get older.
The study, appearing in the March edition of the journal Sleep, examined rates of sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue reported by 155,877 adults participating in a randomized telephone survey. Respondents were asked about sleep disturbances and daytime tiredness. The survey also asked about race, income, education, depressed mood, general health and time of last medical checkup. All responses were weighted so that they matched U.S. Census data.
Health problems and depression were associated with poor sleep, and women reported more sleep disturbances and tiredness than men. But except for an uptick in sleep problems during middle age – more pronounced in women than men – sleep quality improved consistently over a lifetime. Or at least that’s how people reported their sleep.
“Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger adults, feelings about it still improve with age,” said Grandner, Research Associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “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.”
Grandner said the study’s original intent was to confirm that increased sleep problems are associated with aging, using the largest and most representative sample ever to address this issue. Instead, the results challenge the conventional wisdom that difficulty sleeping is perceived more by older adults, and challenge the general clinical practice of ignoring sleep complaints from older adults as a normal part of aging. read more here
The only catch is that middle aged folks tend to report an increase in sleep issues, so it seems we earn our right to a good night’s rest over time.
Commenting on this intriguing research, we learn from Dr Michael Grander that the
original reason for setting up the study was to confirm the precise opposite – that sleep quality declined in old age.
He said: “These results force us to re-think what we know about sleep in older people – men and women.”
He suggested that it was possible that older people were sleeping worse, but simply felt better about it.
“Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger adults, feelings about it still improve with age.”
Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, Professor of Sleep and Physiology and Director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, said the study was “interesting”.
He said: “We have got to get away from all these myths about ageing – many people are very content with their sleep.” read more at the BBC story here
This does give me some hope that as I get through this rough patch in middle age, that I may finally get the rest I have been craving all these years. I do hope this does re-set the thinking that older people sleep less, or at least, are not happy about the sleep they do get.