20. Healthy sleep habits across ages

Sonia Ancoli-Israel.
San Diego, USA


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Sleep in the Older Adult

There are some who believe that as we age, we sleep fewer hours than younger adults. Yet most epidemiological studies have shown that older adults report sleeping about seven hours a night, well within the normal recommended range. The amount of deep sleep (slow wave sleep) does decrease with age, but this reduction begins in the third-fourth decades and stabilizes by our sixties. Nevertheless, there are changes in sleep that are connected to aging. The circadian rhythm advances, resulting in early evening sleepiness and early morning awakening which can be misinterpreted as insomnia. Sleep efficiency is reduced, likely a result of sleep disturbances which become more common with age. The sleep disturbances however, are not a result of aging per se, but rather are almost always related to medical/psychiatric problems, medications and polypharmacy or primary sleep disorders whose prevalence increases with age, such as insomnia, sleep disordered breathing, REM behavior sleep disorder, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movements in sleep. Treatment for these sleep disorders should be considered, regardless of age, to prevent or ameliorate some of the negative consequences of these sleep problems.


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Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus and Professor of Research in the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. Dr. Ancoli-Israel received her Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, a Master’s Degree in Psychology from California State University, Long Beach and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ancoli-Israel’s expertise is in the field of sleep disorders and circadian rhythms particularly in normal aging and neurogenerative disease, and in cancer. Her research has included studies on the longitudinal effect of sleep disorders on aging, therapeutic interventions for sleep problems in dementia, and in the relationship between sleep, fatigue and circadian rhythms in cancer. Dr. Ancoli-Israel is Past-President of the Sleep Research Society (SRS), Past-President of the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms and was on the founding Executive Board of the National Sleep Foundation.  She was honored in 2007 with the National Sleep Foundation Life Time Achievement Award and the SRS Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award, in 2012 with Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine Distinguished Career Award and in 2014 with the SRS Distinguished Scientist Award. Dr. Ancoli-Israel is published regularly in medical and psychiatric journals with close to 500 publications in the field.

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