Analysis

Does sleep get better as we age?

Scientists have long believed that older adults have trouble getting a good night's rest. A new study claims that's simply not true

Start looking forward to a relaxing retirement: According to an extensive new study, older Americans appear to sleep better than their far-younger counterparts. Here, a guide to the counter-intuitive findings:

Old people sleep better?So they say. Men between the ages of 18 and 24 are twice as likely as adults over 80 to report sleeping problems. Women in that young age range are 1.61 times more likely to complain of sleep trouble. When it comes to a good night's sleep, says Alexandra Sifferlin at TIME, factors like stress, depression, and illness are more important than age.

How did researchers figure this out?Their study, published in the journal Sleep, asked more than 150,000 Americans about their quality of sleep, disturbances, daytime fatigue, age, income, and more. "Sleep quality tended to improve over one's lifetime," says Shari Roan at the Los Angeles Times. And people over the age of 80 scored the highest in terms of sleep quality relative to all the other age groups. "This flies in the face of popular belief," says lead author Michael Grandmer. "These results force us to rethink what we know about sleep in older people." 

Why is this?Younger people may simply have more stressors to deal with, including jobs, kids, and socializing. "It's also possible that older people are just more accepting of sleep quality and don't complain about it as much," Roan says.

Sources: BBC News, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, TIME

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