We’re all getting older, but are we sleeping enough?

study published online by the American Geriatrics Society has suggested that chronic problems with sleep are linked to the development of health issues later in life.

Lack of sleep may be linked with an increased risk of disability as you age. “Most people don’t get sufficient sleep - as a culture we tend to devalue sleep - and we tend to underestimate the potential impact of not getting adequate sleep,” said the study’s author in correspondence with Reuters. Elliott Friedman, PhD – an experienced researcher in the field of middle-aged and older persons’ health – carried out the research. He attempted to find out whether or not people who felt they generally slept badly were increasingly likely to develop disabilities. Taking a national sample across the US via telephone interviews and questionnaires, he gathered data on men and women aged between 24 and 75. The participants were questioned twice altogether, approximately ten years apart.

Disability risk

The study found that chronic sleep insufficiency predicted a higher likelihood of physical problems developing over time. Both activities that involved looking after personal hygiene and getting around the house, and physical activities that required further effort were affected. The study does not make definite conclusions on how the cause and effect of the linked issues exactly work, but suggests that “poor sleep may be a robust and independent risk factor for disability in adults of all ages.”

Looking to the long term

The American Geriatrics Society is a not-for-profit organization “devoted to improving the health, independence and quality of life of all older people.” Part of their strategy is to promote research into the health of older adults. Since everyone hopes to live long enough to old age, companies working with the elderly are looking after not just those who are old now. They are also improving the future of generations who will reach that stage someday. Making sure that getting the best quality sleep possible is a priority is an important part of life. Those who care about protecting their long-term health are already concerned with getting a balanced diet and being physically active. Sleeping well can provide an impetus to get up and seize the day and a fresh feeling that avoids annoying cravings for sugary snacks.  However, it could also more directly keep the body healthier and happier into older age. With incentives like that, it is definitely worth taking sleeping seriously. It is time that the days when sleep is just something snatched whenever possible, which tend to happen far too often currently, are consigned to the past.