Better Sleepers Are 'Successful Agers'

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THURSDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Normal sleep is associated with healthy aging, a new study found.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego assessed 2,226 women aged 60 and older for use of sleeping aids, daytime sleepiness, napping, insomnia, early morning awakening, snoring, overall sleep quality, and sleep duration. Based on the results, 20.8 percent of the women were categorized as "successful agers."

Less daytime napping and fewer complaints of insomnia best predicted successful aging, according to the researchers, who found no direct relationship between the use of sleeping aids and successful aging.

Increased severity of sleep disturbances predicted lower self-rated successful aging and a greater difference between perceived and actual age.

"Our findings that reports of better sleep are related to successful aging reinforce the idea that good sleep is of utmost importance for good health. Health care professionals need to ask their patients -- of all ages -- about sleep and help those with poor sleep to find ways for improvement," study author Sonia Ancoli-Israel said in a prepared statement.

The study was presented June 11 at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Baltimore.

Many older adults get less sleep than they need, and one major reason is difficulty falling asleep. Previous research of people over age 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, according to background information in a news release about the study.

Older people often sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night, and they tend to get sleepier earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning than younger people.

Poor sleep can lead to a number of problems such as depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls and increased use of sleep aids. Lack of sleep is also associated with increased risk of health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about getting a good night's sleep.