Study: Seniors Report Sleeping Better Than Younger Adults
The older you get, the better you sleep? Perhaps, suggests a new study that found older adults report sleeping better than their younger counterparts. The research is based on self-reports from 155,877 adults; findings were published today in the journal Sleep. Compared to other age groups, people in their 70s and 80s had the fewest complaints about sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue. In fact, save for a bump in middle age, sleep appears to improve steadily over the course of a lifetime. There are numerous explanations for the discrepancy, study author Michael Grandner, a research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC News. "Perhaps with other pain or health issues going on, older people don't really see their sleep as a problem, compared to everything else," Grandner said. "They might also have attitudes and beliefs about sleep that don't place much importance on getting a good night's sleep. After all, we live in a 'sleep when I'm dead' society that seems to think that sleep is for sissies."
Why Power Naps at Work Are Catching On
Falling asleep on the job may be evolving into office protocol—not grounds for termination. A growing number of companies are recognizing the health benefits of a quick snooze, including increased alertness, enhanced brainpower, and fewer sick days. While naps aren't necessary for those who get the recommended eight hours of shut-eye at night, they may be key for those who skimp on sleep. "Most people don't get enough sleep," says Nancy Collop, president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "And for those people, a nap will clearly help. The most important factor is duration, and it's well-accepted that short naps are good."
Some companies are offering designated nap rooms or even setting up tents or lofted beds, but at Workman Publishing in New York, employees usually sleep underneath their desks or behind room-divider screens. "You can close your eyes for 10 or 15 minutes and wake up feeling completely refreshed," says Susan Bolotin, editor in chief of Workman, which has been nap-friendly since 2007. "We've seen very positive effects. I keep a nap mat in my office, and I'm still known to lie down, put my sleep mask on, and see what happens." Bolotin has distributed eye masks to her team, and sometimes lends her office floor to those without a private workspace who are in need of a nap. "We have one guy who works here who likes to nap, and you'll walk by and he'll be lying down on a mat like a kid in nursery school," she says. Other companies, including British Airways, Nike, Pizza Hut, and Google, offer reclining chairs and "renewal rooms." [Read more: Why Power Naps at Work Are Catching On.]
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Sleep Deprived? Here's How to Recover
Sure, we all know we're supposed to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night, but all of us skimp from time to time, getting, say, five hours one night and six hours the next. Those lost hours, though, can add up to a big sleep debt by the end of the week—the reason so many of us feel wiped out by Friday. But here's a bit of good news: Researchers have found that sleeping in after a few days of missed sleep can help pay back that debt, nearly erasing any lingering sense of fatigue and mental fuzziness, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal Sleep. "The brain has a built-in reflex that helps you sleep deeper and longer when you're sleep deprived," says study coauthor David Dinges, chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "This recovery sleep seems to have a genuine benefit to restoring alertness."
Think you're doing fine on only six hours a night? Think again. Although Dinges hears this from folks all the time, he says it's true for only a small percentage of the population. Most of us actually need seven or eight hours of shut-eye to feel 100 percent the next day. "If you fall asleep watching TV or struggle to stay awake in a meeting," he says, "you're sleep deprived." And it's not just fatigue you feel but reduced brain function in terms of your memory, alertness, cognitive speed, and reaction time. "Some of us are so used to not getting enough sleep that we've forgotten what it feels like to be fully alert," Dinges adds. [Read more: Sleep Deprived? Here's How to Recover.]
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