Sleep problems are especially acute among those older adults who have more
than one medical condition: eight in ten with four or more medical
conditions report a sleep problem compared to about one half of those with
no reported medical conditions (80% vs. 53%). In addition, the poll
connects poor sleep with three physical problems affecting many older
people: bodily pain, excess weight and ambulatory limitations.
According to the newest findings:
- More than three-quarters (77%) of those who report having
frequent bodily pain also report a sleep problem.
- Sleep problems are equally common among older adults who are
classified as obese (77%) and are linked with two-thirds (64%) of those who
are considered overweight by medical standards; and
- The vast majority of older people with impaired mobility are
likely to report a sleep problem (84%), with two-thirds experiencing a
symptom of insomnia.
- Moreover, about four in ten of those with impaired mobility
report unpleasant feelings in their legs, a symptom of Restless Legs
Syndrome, a serious, treatable sleep disorder.
Insomnia is the most common sleep problem, with about one-half of older
adults (48%) reporting they frequently experience at least one symptom.
(Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking a lot during
the night, waking up too early and not getting back to sleep, and waking
While waking up a lot in the middle of the night is the most common insomnia
complaint, the biggest overall problem disrupting the sleep of older adults
is the need to get up and go to the bathroom, with nearly two thirds (65%)
reporting this disturbance at least a few nights a week.
Rounding out the link between sleep and health, the poll finds that the
better the sleep, the better the perceived health of older adults. Those
who rate their health as "very good" or "excellent," for example, report
less daytime sleepiness than those with "fair" or "poor" health (9% vs.
29%). They also report fewer insomnia symptoms (38% vs. 71%), and fewer
sleep problems (59% vs. 85%). And the healthy are less likely to categorize
their sleep as "fair" or "poor" (13% vs. 47%).
COMPARING SLEEP PATTERNS OF OLDER AND YOUNGER ADULTS
Besides charting the sleep patterns of older adults, the 2003 Sleep in
America poll dispels the notion that the older we are, the less we sleep.
In fact, the poll shows older adults sleep about the same amount as their
younger counterparts, though their sleep habits are substantially different.
Providing an up-to-date look at how older adults are sleeping, the poll
- The sleep patterns of older adults are more consistent than those of
their younger counterparts. Older adults get about the same amount of sleep
on weeknights (7.0 hrs/night) and weekends (7.1 hrs/night), while younger
adults sleep less during the week (6.7 hrs/night), increasing their sleep on
weekends (7.6 hrs/night). About 13 percent of older adults sleep less than
six hours on weeknights compared to l6 percent of those 18-54.
- The frequency of adults' sleep problems tends to diminish
slightly with age. Of those aged 55-64, seven in ten (71%) report
experiencing a frequent sleep problem compared to 65 percent of those aged
65-74, and 64 percent of those aged 75-84.
When it comes to the sleep patterns of older men and women, the poll finds
no major gender differences. However, older women are more likely to report
at least one symptom of insomnia (50% vs. 45%), while older men are more
likely to report they snore (40% vs. 26%) and experience pauses in breathing
during sleep (10% vs. 5%).