There’s a great article this week from Sign On San Diego that addresses the myth that seniors need less sleep than younger people. The article, written by gerontologist (doctors who study aging and the problems associated with it) Dr. Mario Garrett, points out that sleep disruption among anyone, let alone older individuals, can cause memory problems, depression, and a higher susceptibility to falls. Since those problems are normal issues for the elderly, lack of sleep becomes even more troublesome.
The “older people don’t need as much sleep” myth may have stemmed from the fact that it’s simply harder for seniors to sleep at all, as Dr. Garrett points out:
In the United States, insomnia is the third most common reason for a medical visit, behind only headaches and the common cold. As sleeping patterns change for older adults — going to sleep earlier, getting up earlier and napping during the day — it becomes more difficult to fall asleep at night. Once asleep, older adults spend less time in deep sleep — rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — and therefore are often light sleepers. By themselves, even these normal changes can to disrupt sleeping patterns. More than half of older adults have a sleep disorder. The rate is higher among long-term care facility residents. Although researchers have described more than 70 sleep disorders, four disorders hold top billing. These include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.