Can’t sleep? Tired all the time? You’re not alone. Millions of other Americans are right there with you during the wee hours of the night. Unfortunately, as we learned last week, sleeping pills are not a good option for those of us who are sleep deprived. So what is then? Well, you can wait until you reach a certain age according to a new study.
Published in the appropriately-named journal, SLEEP, researchers studied the sleep patterns and habits of more than 150,000 adults. What they found was contrary to what we have been taught all these years–sleep actually improves with age.
That can seem untrue to many of us who fondly remember our younger years when we could sleep around the clock, anytime, anywhere. Now, we are lucky if we get a few hours here, and a few hours there, interrupted by kids, bathroom breaks and endless amounts of time lying awake and worrying about every stupid little thing. (OK, maybe that’s just me.)
Nevertheless, researchers now say those annoying sleep disturbances and related fatigue actually declines with age. The problem is, we might have to wait until we’re 80 to experience that. Sigh.
Apparently, sleep problems increase during middle age between the ages of 40 to 59–particularly in women. But after that, sleep problems begin declining, with those who were 80 and above listing the fewest complaints.
Leader study author, Dr. Michael Grandner, a research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine agreed that this doesn’t make much sense:
This flies in the face of popular belief. These results force us to re-think what we know about sleep in older people–men and women.
The researchers did offer some possible explanations to all of this–one being that older people might just have lower expectations on what a good night’s sleep means. Other possibilities include the fact that people who are over 80 are generally healthier given the fact that they have lived so long.
Meanwhile, those who are younger and middle-aged have some very real factors that disturb our sleep. Namely, school and work pressures, finances, children and eventually menopause.
In addition, the study authors noted that “younger individuals may be experiencing more sleep-related problems due to society influences, such as increased technology, work hours or other factors experienced less by the older cohort.”
Good point. How many 80-year-olds are texting and surfing the web at midnight these days?