Quality Sleep Essential Component Of Elderly Health, Experts Say

According to Mass Live, experts have found that there’s a higher correlation between sleep and heathy aging than previously thought.

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night are what’s generally recommended, but London-born Dr. Neil Bach of Baystate Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center says that many common symptoms that come with age can also interfere with seniors getting their much-needed shut eye.

However, Bach also said that with the sleep disorder treatments have come a long way in helping improve both quality and quantity of sleep.

“We know people have more fragmentation of their sleep as they get older. The sleep is less unbroken. There are more things that disturb it…The statistic that stands out is that 50% of older people complain of sleep problems, pretty much insomnia, falling asleep, staying asleep, feeling un-refreshed.” he said.

Another common sleep-disturbing condition that can even cause chronic disease if left untreated is sleep apnea, which has been proven to be common among both veterans and civilians that have gone through traumatic experiences. Bach says that treating sleep apnea enhances the effectiveness of PTSD treatments, and that “something like 86%” of veterans ages 60 or older have moderate or severe sleep apnea.

Bach was also quick to note the misconception that the amount of sleep necessary for healthy living decreases with age.

“There is this misconception that as people get older the amount of sleep that they need decreases…This isn’t necessarily the case,” Bach said. “When people are otherwise healthy, they achieve the same amount of sleep they did when they were younger. There may be more fragmentation of it, but they actually achieve the same amount of sleep.

Bach cites getting outside and exercising can often help to improve both quality and quantity of sleep for the elderly. However, this can be difficult, seeing as over two million senior citizens visit the emergency room each year for injuries caused by a fall, and it can be hard to determine what types of exercises, activities, and stretches are safe.

Bach then went on to explain sleep efficiency — the amount of time somebody sleeps compared to the opportunities they have to sleep — and said that it’s likely to decrease with age.

“Someone who goes to bed, falls asleep almost immediately and wakes up six to seven hours later without a break, that is 100% efficiency,” Bach said. “The normal sleep efficiency is about 90%. There is a world of difference between 85%, which is near normal, and 50% sleep efficiency. We look for underlying causes of insomnia in these folks.”

Ultimately, Bach urges any senior who notices symptoms of sleep disorders to seek treatment.

“If seniors are excessively sleepy or they have overwhelming insomnia it is probably not a bad idea to get seen by a sleep specialist,” he said.