Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sleep Problems in Older Adults

Two new studies examined the link between sleep and frailty in older adults.

study involved 3,133 men from six U.S. centers. They were 67 years of age and older.

Results show that sleep problems were highest in frail men. Statistical adjustment found that certain sleep problems were associated with an increased risk of frailty.

Men who took at least 60 minutes to fall asleep were 42 percent more likely to be frail. The risk of frailty also was elevated in men with either poor sleep quality or sleep-disordered breathing. The odds of being frail were increased in men who were awake for a high percentage of their time in bed.

A smaller
study involved 374 adults in Connecticut. They had an average age of 84 years.

Results show that 24 percent were drowsy; 10 percent had clinical
insomnia; and 41 percent were frail.

There was a significant association between drowsiness and frailty. Adults who were drowsy were nearly four times more likely to be frail.

In May an
expert consensus statement addressed the topic of sleep and aging. It noted that sleep disorders are most common in older adults.

The experts added that aging can involve a profound change in your daily sleep-wake cycle. But most of these changes occur by the age of 60.

As a result, sleep problems in older adults shouldn’t be considered a normal part of aging. Often these problems are related to other medical conditions or frequent medication use.

The statement noted that this relationship is “bidirectional.” People with sleep disorders are more likely to have serious medical problems such as heart disease and depression. At the same time, people with these problems have a higher risk of developing a sleep disorder.

In August a
study in the journal Sleep linked insomnia symptoms and daytime sleepiness with quality of life in older adults. Another study reported that other sleep disorders such as leg cramps and sleep apnea are common in older adults.

Another recent
study linked excessive daytime sleepiness in older adults with an increased risk of death.

Learn more about sleep and aging. Get help for a sleep problem at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

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