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Elderly More Likely to Battle Sleep Disorders
Date:4/27/2008

Meds they take, changes in biological clock put many at risk for serious disease

SUNDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Many older adults don't get enough sleep, which can increase the risk of serious health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

While sleep patterns do change as people age, disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day aren't a normal part of aging.

"As we get older, the amount of nightly sleep that we need remains the same as that of what we needed when we were younger. However the ability to get the sleep that we need does change. Older people have a hard time getting the sleep they need because of the interference of medical illness, the medications they take for those illnesses, and changes in their biological clock," Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and director of the sleep disorders clinic at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, said in a prepared statement.

Ancoli-Israel, who is also co-director of the Laboratory for Sleep and Chronobiology at the UCSD General Clinic Research Center, cited a number of common sleep disorders in the elderly:

  • Insomnia affects almost half of adults aged 60 and older.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects almost 40 percent of adults, and is more common among older adults. OSA can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cognitive problems.
  • Restless legs syndrome, which affects more than 20 percent of people aged 80 and older, includes uncomfortable feelings in the legs, such as tingling, or pins and needles.
  • Periodic limb movements cause people to jerk and kick their legs every 20 to 40 seconds during sleep. One study found that about 40 percent of older adults have a least a mild form of this condition.

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