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Study suggests that healthy adults may need less sleep as they age
Date:2/1/2010

WESTCHESTER, Ill. A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that healthy older adults without sleep disorders can expect to have a reduced "sleep need" and to be less sleepy during the day than healthy young adults.

Results show that during a night of eight hours in bed, total sleep time decreased significantly and progressively with age. Older adults slept about 20 minutes less than middle-aged adults, who slept 23 minutes less than young adults. The number of awakenings and the amount of time spent awake after initial sleep onset increased significantly with age, and the amount of time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep decreased across age groups. Yet even with these decreases in sleep time, intensity and continuity, older adults displayed less subjective and objective daytime sleep propensity than younger adults.

Furthermore, two additional nights involving experimental disruption of slow-wave sleep led to a similar response in all age groups. Daytime sleep propensity increased, and slow-wave sleep rebounded during a night of recovery sleep. According to the authors, this suggests that the lack of increased daytime sleepiness in the presence of an age-related deterioration in sleep quality cannot be attributed to unresponsiveness to variations in homeostatic sleep pressure. Instead, healthy aging appears to be associated with reductions in the sleep duration and depth required to maintain daytime alertness.

"Our findings reaffirm the theory that it is not normal for older people to be sleepy during the daytime," said principal investigator Derk-Jan Dijk, PhD, professor of sleep and physiology at the University of Surrey in the U.K. "Whether you are young or old, if you are sleepy during the day you either don't get enough sleep or you may suffer from a sleep disorder."

The study was conducted at the Clinical Research Centre of the University of Surrey and involved 110 healthy adults without s
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Contact: Kelly Wagner
kwagner@aasmnet.org
708-492-0930
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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