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

leep disorders or sleep complaints; 44 were young (20 to 30 years), 35 were middle-aged (40 to 55 years) and 31 were older adults (66 to 83 years). After an eight-hour baseline sleep test, subjects were randomized to two nights with or without selective slow-wave sleep disruption by acoustic stimuli, followed by one recovery night. Nighttime sleep was evaluated by polysomnography, while sleep propensity was assessed using the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) and the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale.

During the baseline night, mean objective total sleep time decreased from 433.5 minutes for young adults to 409.9 minutes for middle-aged adults and 390.4 minutes for older adults. Average minutes of slow-wave sleep decreased from 118.4 minutes for young adults to 85.3 minutes for middle-aged adults and 84.2 minutes for older adults. Mean number of minutes spent awake after initial sleep onset increased from 21 for young adults to 49.9 for middle-aged adults and 70.7 for older adults.

Objective daytime sleepiness measured by the MSLT decreased with age. When asked to lie in a comfortable position on the bed and try to fall asleep, young adults fell asleep in an average of 8.7 minutes, compared with 11.7 minutes for middle-aged adults and 14.2 minutes for older adults.

The authors noted that the cause of the age-related reductions in slow-wave sleep and sleep need still must be established. Related factors could include alterations in reproductive hormones or changes in the brain. They added that the study did not address sleep propensity during the evening hours, when it is possible that older adults may be sleepier than young adults.

According to the authors, the study also has implications for the treatment of insomnia in older adults, who may be unaware of their reduced sleep need. Therefore, sleep restriction, which leads to increased homeostatic sleep pressure, may be a successful behavioral therapy for insomnia in health
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Contact: Kelly Wagner
kwagner@aasmnet.org
708-492-0930
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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