"Long Sleeping" and Needing Daily Naps May Be Warning Signs of Serious Sleep Disorders
Several studies have found that adults who sleep about seven hours a night run a lower risk of death than those who sleep considerably less, or considerably more, every night.
Few studies, though, have investigated how older adults' sleep and napping habits affect their risk of death. Many older people take naps during the day; so it's important to consider both nighttime sleep and naps when studying sleep's effects on health in older adults.
New Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
To learn more about how sleep affects the health -- and longevity -- of older adults, a team of researchers recently studied the sleep habits of more than 8,000 women who were age 69 or older. The women had volunteered for a seven-year study.
During the study, the women completed questionnaires that asked them, among other things, how long they slept at night, whether they took naps, and, if so, how many days they napped each week, and how many hours they napped each day.
In addition to information about the women's sleep habits, the researchers reviewed information about women in the group who died during the study -- information that included the causes of their deaths.
The researchers found that older women who slept nine or more hours a day ran an increased risk of death from all causes except cancer. So did older women who napped every day -- regardless of whether they slept considerably more than nine hours a day, or considerably less.
Why? It's possible that older adults who sleep nine or more hours a day do so because they are frail and in poor health, and, as a result, are at higher risk of death, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. And it's possible that older adults who nap daily do so because they have health problems such as heart disease , or anxiety, depression or other mental health problems , or they may have serious sleep problems that leave them feeling tired during the day. These problems could also shorten their lives.
Further research, to clarify what contributes to sleep patterns that boost risks of death among older people, is needed, the researchers conclude. It's possible that addressing these contributors to excessive nighttime sleep or daily sleepiness that leads to napping could lower risks of death among older adults.
The summary above is from the full report titled, "Self-Reported Sleep and Nap Habits and Risk of Mortality in a Large Cohort of Older Women." It is in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Volume 57, Issue 4). The report is authored by Katie L. Stone, PhD; Susan K. Ewing, MS; Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD; Kristine E. Ensrud, MD; Susan Redline, MD; Douglas C. Bauer, MD; Jane A. Cauley, DrPH; Teresa A. Hillier, MD; Steven R. Cummings, MD.