31% of Older Adults Experience Chronic Severe Fatigue
Study finds that insomnia and use of sleep-promoting medications are linked to persistent severe fatigue
Older adults who have difficulty staying asleep or who use sleep-promoting medications are at risk for experiencing persistent severe fatigue, according to the results of a study published online ahead of print in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Persistent severe fatigue is chronic exhaustion that is disabling enough to limit a person’s level of activity.
The study in question aimed to explore links between difficulty falling/staying asleep, the use of sleep-promoting medicines, and experiences of persistent severe fatigue. According to the author, Dr. Yohannes W. Endeshaw of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, this is among the very first studies to report on these connections.
When the study began, 2,371 participants (31%) reported experiencing severe fatigue. A year later, results were nearly identical. Furthermore, almost 20% of respondents categorized this fatigue as persistent. The researchers determined that difficulty staying asleep, as well as using sleep-promoting medications most nights, predicted persistent severe fatigue.
These findings are important because symptoms of fatigue can predict frailty. Frailty can affect your ability to function on a daily basis, and is an important concern for health professionals to identify and address as soon as possible. The study concluded that poor sleep and use of sleep-promoting medications could have related adverse consequences for our health that could lead to persistent and severe fatigue, which interestingly may be more common among women than men.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene is your best bet for keeping sleep patterns healthy. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about fatigue that has lasted for an extended period of time. But there are also other things you can do to promote healthy sleep. If you’re concerned about your sleep patterns, for example, consider
- Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol in the later part of the day;
- Exercising regularly;
- Following a regular bedtime routine and schedule; and
- Working with caregivers and healthcare professionals to manage stress, depression, and anxiety.
For more information on sleep problems, check out the resources available from HealthinAging.org.
This summary is from the full report titled “Do sleep complaints predict persistent fatigue among older adults?” It appears online ahead of print in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The paper is authored by Yohannes W. Endeshaw, MD, MPH.