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Older Women May Sleep Better Than Men

But many think they get less sleep than they actually do, study finds

THURSDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Older women sleep longer and better than older men, even though many women believe they have worse sleep, researchers in the Netherlands have found.

The study of 956 people, aged 59 to 79, found that women reported less and poorer sleep than men on all of the self-reported measures, including a 13.2 minute shorter total sleep time (6.79 hours versus 7.01 hours), 10.1 minute longer sleep onset latency, and a 4.2 percent lower sleep efficiency.

However, when the researchers recorded actual sleep data, they found that women slept an average 16 minutes longer than men (estimated 6.65 hours versus 6.40 hours), had a 1.2 percent higher sleep efficiency, and had less fragmented sleep.

Closer investigation revealed that the discrepancies between the women's self-reported and actual quality of sleep were partly explained by factors such as use of sleep medication. Women were more likely than men to use sleep medications (14.9 percent versus 6.1 percent). Both sleep medication use and depressive symptoms were related to significantly shorter self-reported sleep times, the study authors noted.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that women slept longer and better, and reported their sleep duration more accurately, than men.

"The difference between subjective and objective sleep quality arises not because women are more likely to be complainers, but because men strongly overestimate their sleep duration," principal investigator Dr. Henning Tiemeier, an associate professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The researchers also noted that women may require more sleep than men, meaning the same amount of sleep may be adequate for men but not for women.

The study appears in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about aging and sleep.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, Oct. 1, 2009

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