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Elderly sleep study reveals false expectations

09-10-2009

New research published in the October issue of Sleep has revealed that elderly women have better sleep quality and sleep longer than elderly men, although they largely claim otherwise.

The study, carried out in Rotterdam, involved 956 participants between the ages of 59 and 79, 52.3% of whom were women. Volunteers wore an “actigraph”, a watch-like device, for a period of six nights, during which their sleep patterns were investigated in detail. The sleep data was supplemented by written ‘sleep diaries’ from each of the participants, explaining their opinion on their own sleep quality and duration.

On the whole, men were found to sleep for an average of 6.40 hours and estimate they slept for 7.01 hours, while women believed they slept an average of 6.79 hours and actually slept for 6.65 hours per night. Variables in the study included that women were more likely use sleep medication (14.9% compared to 6.1% of men), and that men consumed twice as much alcohol per day as women (1.0 unit against 0.5 units).

“The differences between subjective and objective sleep quality arise not because women are more likely to be complainers, but because men strongly overestimate their sleep direction,” said Henning Tiemeier MD PhD, principal investigator on the study.

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