Retirement May Help Improve Sleep

New research suggests a silver lining to aging; investigators discovered retirement from work life is associated with longer sleep.

The quality of sleep also improves, as retired people experience less early morning awakenings or nonrestorative sleep, unlike in their last working years. Non-restorative sleep occurs when a person experiences tiredness and fatigue after sleeping for a regular duration.

In the study, Finish researchers, in collaboration with the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health, University of Helsinki, and University College London Medical School discovered self-reported duration of sleep increased and stayed on the achieved level for years after retirement.

Of interest, researchers discovered duration of sleep increased especially for people who had had sleep difficulties or were heavy alcohol users prior to retirement. Among these individuals, the duration of sleep after retirement increased by 45 minutes for people who did not get enough sleep during their employment.

Experts explain that a sufficient amount of sleep is very important for our health and functioning. Individuals have different needs of sleep, but it is recommended for people over the age of 65 to sleep for seven to eight hours a night.

Retiring enables people to sleep longer, as work schedules no longer determine the times for sleeping and waking up, said doctoral candidate Saana Myllyntausta from the University of Turku.

During their last years of employment, different sleep difficulties were experienced by 30 percent of the people. After retiring, only 26 percent of the people were experiencing sleep difficulties. The researchers discovered that, of different kinds of sleep difficulties, people experienced a decrease especially in early morning awakenings and nonrestorative sleep.

Sleep difficulties decreased especially among people who experienced their work as stressful and their health as poor before retirement. Sleep difficulties decreased the most for people who experienced psychological distress before retirement.

For example, work-related stress is known to disturb sleep. One reason for the decrease in sleeping difficulties during retirement could be the removal of work-related stress, said Myllyntausta.

The study followed approximately 5,800 people who participated in the Finnish Public Sector study by the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health and who retired on a statutory basis in 2000-2011.

The participants estimated their sleep duration and the prevalence of different kinds of sleep difficulties in surveys before and after retiring.

Source: University of Turku