A new study is debunking the perception that elderly people have wildly different sleep habits than their younger counterparts.
University of Pittsburgh researchers conducted a survey of 1,116 people ages 65 and older who are retired, and found that more than half of them get around 7.5 hours of sleep per night, at least, and sleep generally between 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. Adults are generally recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.
"Our findings suggest that in matters regarding sleep and sleepiness, as in many other aspects of life, most seniors today are doing better than is generally thought," study researcher Timothy H. Monk, Ph.D., D.Sc., a professor of psychiatry at UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, said in a statement. "The stereotype of most seniors going to bed at 8 p.m., sleeping very lightly and being unduly sleepy during the day may be quite inaccurate, suggesting that 60 really is the new 40."
The study, published in the journal Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly, showed that just 25 percent of seniors surveyed reported sleeping fewer than 6.7 hours each night.
The researchers also found that a bigger predictor of sleep quality was a person's health, versus a person's age. And daytime sleepiness in the elderly may be more a result of things like medication side effects, not getting a good night's rest, or having some sort of illness, versus age.
In 2008, a study in the journal Current Biology showed that elderly people may simply need less sleep than younger people -- about an hour-and-a-half less, to be exact, LiveScience reported. The findings have implications for perceptions of insomnia among the elderly, study researcher Elizabeth Klerman, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, told LiveScience:
"There are definitely older people with insomnia," Klerman told LiveScience. "However there may also be some older people who 'create' insomnia if they believe that they 'need' eight to nine hours of sleep and therefore spend more time in bed (lying awake) than needed to achieve the amount of sleep 'needed.'"
While the new study showed that elderly people generally get the same amounts of sleep and sleep around the same times as younger people, a previous study from Mayo Clinic researchers showed that many may also experience sleep disorders. That study, presented in 2009 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, showed that 59 percent of 70-to-89-year-olds included in the study experienced a sleep disorder (not including insomnia).