Misconceptions About Sleep Patterns of Older Folks
Posted Feb 01 2013 9:00am
According to a joint study between the University of
Pittsburgh's Sleep and Chronobiology Center (SCC) and University Center
for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), there are misconceptions about the sleep patterns and quality of sleep for older adults. "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," said Timothy H. Monk, Ph.D., D.Sc .,
the study's lead author and professor of psychiatry at UPMC's Western
Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. "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
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on
Aging and conducted over five years. It findings come from empirical
self-reported data from extensive telephone interviews with nearly 1,200
retired seniors from Western Pennsylvania seniors
with an over-representation of retired shift workers.
Sleep quality and daytime sleepiness levels were
within normal limits, although a sizable minority did
report problems. Seventy-five percent said they averaged more than 6.75 hours of sleep
per night. The remainder said they slept less and experienced problems
with nocturnal sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep-related or daytime
drowsiness issues seemed to have more to do with outside influences such
as overall health and medications rather than age, the investigators
The habitual timing of the sleep episode for this sample appeared to be mostly within the
usual 11 pm to 7:30 am range, with about 7.5 hours
of actual sleep within that interval being reported.
There was, however, a sizable minority who broke
this pattern, with 25% of the sample reporting less
than 6.7 hours of sleep, and problems with nocturnal
sleep and daytime sleepiness.
Researchers recommended that care should be exercised in
making assumptions about the quality and timing of
nocturnal sleep and the level of daytime sleepiness
experienced by most seniors—those 65 years of age
or older—which may all be very similar to those of
younger adults. It should be recognized that a sizeable
minority of seniors do, however, experience problems
with nocturnal sleep and daytime sleepiness.
And then there are my in-laws, Lou and Dolores, in their 80s - Jeopardy at 7. Wheel of Fortune at 7:30. One order of Criminal Minds. In bed by 9.