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Most Seniors Get a Good Night's Sleep, Study Says

Common beliefs about older adults' problems with insomnia and daytime drowsiness put to rest

FRIDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new study challenges the common belief that most seniors go to bed early and have trouble sleeping through the night.

Researchers conducted phone interviews with nearly 1,200 retired people, aged 65 and older, in western Pennsylvania and found that more than half of them said they slept at least 7.5 hours a night and slept between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

About 75 percent of the seniors said they slept an average of more than 6.75 hours per night. The other quarter said they slept fewer than 6.7 hours per night and had sleeping difficulties and daytime sleepiness.

Sleep quality in seniors may depend largely on the health of the individual, rather than on the person's age, the University of Pittsburgh researchers said. They also noted that daytime sleepiness in seniors is often associated with medications, illness, and poor nighttime sleep, and may not be associated with age.

The study is published in the journal Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly.

"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," lead author Timothy Monk, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said in a medical center news release.

"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," he added.

"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," Monk noted. "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."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about sleep and aging.


SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, news release, Nov. 19, 2012

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