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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Older People Need Less Sleep

Older People Need Less Sleep; Older People May Need Less Sleep Than Younger People, Research Suggests.

When attempting to sleep for 16 hours each day, for several days, subjects aged between 60 and 72 managed an average of 7.5 hours, compared to 9 hours among 18-32 year-olds, the researchers found.

The "sleep debt" experienced by the older subjects, which was split evenly between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with dreaming, and non-REM sleep, was not generally made up during the following day.

This dispels a conventional belief that older people sleep little but often, according to the researchers.

They say that the disparity may show that the need for sleep is simply smaller among older people.

One of the report's authors, Dr Elizabeth Klerman, from the Harvard Medical School, said: "The most parsimonious explanation for our results is that older people need less sleep."

However, Dr Klerman and her co-author, Professor Derk-Jan Dijk from the University of Surrey, say they cannot draw firm conclusions on what causes the difference.

They add that other reasons for the shorter time spent sleeping among older subjects may include a propensity to take longer to fall asleep. They say that insomnia is a very common complaint among older people.

Dr Klerman said: "It's also possible that older people sleep less even when given the opportunity for more sleep because of age-related changes in the ability to fall asleep and remain asleep."

The study also found that most younger subjects slept for much longer periods during the study than they typically would do at home. This, according to Dr Klerman, suggests that they don't get as much sleep as they need. Dr Klerman said that given evidence that insufficient sleep increases the risk of accidents, younger people should sleep more.

The report states: "Studies have shown increased sleep, improved subjective alertness and objectively assessed performance" in young adults given the opportunity to sleep more.

Source: http://www.globalaging.org/health/world/2008/less.htm

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