The older we get, the better we sleep: Study

By  | 

Sleep behaviours change over time and as people grow old, it is generally seen that they sleep less. A new study in this field has suggested that as we grow older our sleep quality improves while the amount of time we spend sleeping diminishes.

A team of researchers from Switzerland investigated this aspect by combining questionnaires that relied on participants’ self-reporting and actual observation of their sleep. They worked with 6,733 participants from Lausanne between the ages of 35 and 75 who were thought to be free of sleep disorders, the researchers conducted polysomnography (PSG) on 2,160 of them.

“Older subjects complain less about sleepiness, and pathological sleepiness is significantly lower than younger subjects,” write the researchers, indicating that we may require less sleep as we age.

It is generally observed that old people tend to wake up early in the morning and the same was corroborated by the study wherein authors note that growing older means becoming more of a morning person over time. Despite the reduced sleeping hours, very few old people actually complain about daytime sleepiness.

The study further found that it takes longer for women to fall asleep at night as they age, with the oldest female participants tossed and turned the most. For both men and women, older people wake up more easily than young people, despite the improved sleep quality and functioning during the day.

“One possible explanation for better rating of daytime and sleep quality is an adaptation of expectations about sleep in older populations, or an acclimatization to sleep changes over time,” says co-author Gianina Luca of the University of Lausanne.

PSG technology records biophysical events that occur while you sleep, such as measuring the quantity and velocity of eye movements during the deep “rapid eye movement” (REM) phase of sleep.

Of this group, only 1,147 were considered free of sleep disorders after the polysomnography tests.

The researchers passed questionnaires to 5,064 of the participants, which revealed that only 2,966 were without sleep disorders.

The study, which has implications for how rampant sleep disorders are becoming, was published in the journal Taylor & Francis.