As people age, sleep habits change. Researchers know that older adults sleep less, but the overall shift in sleep patterns is little understood. A new study from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland investigated how sleep patterns change through adulthood, shedding light onto how sleep changes as people age. Using a mixture of subjective and objective techniques, the researchers confirmed that older adults sleep less. They also discovered that older adults feel more rested during the day.
The researchers evaluated 6,733 randomly selected participants from Lausanne between 2003 and 2006. The participants took part in a sleep study and completed questionnaires about their perceived sleep quality. People with sleep disorders were excluded from the study.
The results demonstrate a number of changes in sleep patterns occur as people age. In comparison to younger adults, older adults:
- Sleep for fewer hours.
- Have decreased sleep efficiency, that is, their sleep is more restless and they are more likely to wake up.
- Shift toward morningness (going to sleep earlier and waking earlier).
- Complain less about being sleepy.
- Report better sleep quality and daytime function.
Additionally, they found that older women have increased sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep).
In short, older adults do not sleep more than younger adults, but they feel better about the sleep they get. The study also indicates that sleep complaints among older adults are not typical. Older adults having issues with sleep should consult their physician.
This research is published in the journal Annals of Medicine.
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