New survey reveals older Americans' attitudes toward sleep and healthy aging

11/02/05

Is good sleep a new 'vital sign'?

NEW YORK (November 3, 2005)-- According to results of a new Gallup survey released today by the International Longevity Center-USA (ILC), almost half (46 percent) of older adults receive fewer than seven hours of sleep each night, and a quarter (25 percent) believe they have a "sleep problem." Furthermore, older adults have concerns about taking prescription sleep medications including addiction, next-day grogginess and long-term side effects.

Although most older adults (80 percent) recognize the importance of sleep to their health, many who experience trouble sleeping remain untreated. According to the survey, 53 percent of adults who have spoken with their healthcare providers about a sleep problem are not receiving treatment.

"The importance of sleep to healthy aging is often overlooked in the medical community, but it's becoming increasingly apparent that good sleep could be a new vital sign," said Robert N. Butler, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the ILC. "Poor sleep is a condition that needs to be addressed, diagnosed and treated it could be as important as nutrition, exercise and social engagement to the health of older adults."

The Gallup survey also showed that 77 percent of older adults expressed concerns about the long-term effects of prescription sleep aids and nearly seven in ten (68 percent) are concerned about becoming addicted to them. Fewer than one in ten respondents (9 percent) deemed prescription sleep aids as "very safe."

Caregiver Worries

Why are older adults suffering from sleepless nights? Worry is a common factor that interferes with nearly 40 percent of older adults' ability to fall asleep a trend that is especially common among primary caregivers. According to the survey, half of caregivers (50 percent) report that worrying has interfered with their ability to fall asleep.

"As the population continues to age, many older Americans are assuming the role of primary caregiver for a parent or relative a position often accompanied by high levels of anxiety," said Dr. Butler. "It is no surprise that this stress and the need for round-the-clock care often interfere with getting a good night's sleep."

About the Survey and Consensus Conference

Findings of the survey were presented at the ILC's Sleep and Healthy Aging Scientific Consensus Conference being held November 2-4 in New York City. The nation's top medical experts are convening at the conference to discuss a range of topics including the challenges caregivers face in getting good sleep, the relationship between exercise and sleep, and the unique effects of sleep on older adults' quality of life. Additional survey results include the following:

  • Respondents ranked good sleep quality as the fourth most important factor to a healthy lifestyle, following good nutrition, mental sharpness and regular exercise.
  • Older men are more likely than older women (38 percent vs. 27 percent) to say they get a good night's sleep seven days a week.
  • The 46 percent of adults who describe their health as excellent are the most likely group to say they get a good night's sleep every night of the week.
  • Forty-five percent of older adults feel they need more sleep today than when they were young.

The random telephone survey of 1,003 adults 50 years of age or older was conducted by The Gallup Organization for ILC to examine older adults' knowledge of the importance of sleep, their sleep behaviors and their attitudes toward sleep and aging. The results have been statistically adjusted to be nationally representative of all adults age 50 and older. Additional information about the survey can be found athttp://www.ilcusa.org/.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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