Researchers who set out to prove that sleep worsens in old age have found the exact opposite to be true – people sleep better as they grow older !
The popular impression is that young people sleep well and with age, the quality as well as quantity of sleep tends to decrease. Researchers working at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology decided to test the veracity of this idea.
Rather than use sleep-measuring equipment which sometimes returns results contrary to the subject’s opinion, they took a telephone survey of around 150,000 adults. After making corrections for health problems and depression in subjects, they discovered an amazing trend.
Their findings published in the journal Sleep suggests that sleep tends to get better with age, with a minor blip around the age of 40 and then steadily improves, with 80-year olds reporting the best quality sleep.
Announcing these findings, Dr Michael Grandner said:
“These results force us to re-think what we know about sleep in older people – men and women. Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger adults, feelings about it still improve with age.”
This point is a significant one because the study found that people who were above 70 years of age were the ones who complained the least about their sleep. So, it remains to be confirmed if they are indeed sleeping better or just not feeling as bad about their sleep patterns.
Commenting on this study, Surrey Sleep Research Centre’s Director and Professor of Sleep and Physiology Prof. Derk-Jan Dijk pointed out that these data were from people’s subjective opinions on their sleep and could be influenced by mood, too. He said:
“If you are angry because your boss didn’t give you a pay rise, your perception of sleep quality may be very different from someone who is feeling generally content.”
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