AUG 21, 2015 10:39 PM PDT

Less Sleep Needed with Age

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Getting older may have its benefits. One of them may be getting by with less sleep and feeling good about it. A new study done at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland discovered that the older population needs less sleep than its younger counterparts and feels more awake during the day.
Older people require less sleep and have better sleep quality. 
Published August 13 in Annals of Medicine, and reported by Bevin Fletcher in Bioscience Technology,  the report reveals that the team studied 6,733 participants from ages 35 to 75, all of whom were randomly selected. Any people with a declared sleep disorder were not included in the study. Data on individuals’ sleep patterns were evaluated by means of a variety of methods ranging from questionnaires to sleep studies.
 
The results revealed that older populations went to bed earlier and got up earlier. Additionally, in spite of reporting less overall sleep, they complained less about sleepiness — and pathological sleepiness is significantly lower in older patients than in younger participants. These results suggest that they may actually require less sleep.
 
While the time required to fall asleep at night increases with age, that is only the case for women. Both males and females witnessed a decrease in sleep efficiency as they aged. As a result, they are more likely to wake up during the night. On the other hand, older people reported that they had better sleep quality and daytime functioning. Lead researcher Gianina Luca and colleagues cited two possible reasons for this fact: “One possible explanation for better rating of daytime and sleep quality is an adaptation of expectations about sleep in older populations, or an acclimatization to sleep changes over time.”
 
In toto, the research suggests that people will be more satisfied with sleep quality and patterns as they grow older, and they will feel more refreshed. As a result of these factors, they will function better during the day.
 
The authors concluded that “Age-related changes in sleep do not affect subjective sleepiness or daytime functioning. Presence of sleep complaints should not be viewed as part of normal aging, but should prompt the identification of underlying co-morbidities. Normative data for sleep should be adapted for aging populations to reduce overmedication in the elderly. Our findings on the history of sleep micro- and macro-structure can be used as standards to evaluate impaired sleep structure in populations with specific pathologies. Moreover, the prospective clinical follow-up of this cohort (in progress) will determine the clinical significance of changes in sleep states and associated EEG features in terms of incident neurologic and psychiatric diseases.”
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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