‘In reality, chronic diseases often coexist,” said Sabia, “particularly at older ages, and the relationship between sleep duration and risk of multimorbidity remains unclear.”
Using data from a cohort study that began in 1985, Sabia and her team examined self-reported sleep duration when the participants were 50, 60, and 70 years old.
A study of 7,864 healthy participants aged 50 found that those who slept less than five hours had a 30% greater risk of developing multiple chronic health conditions than those who slept seven hours a night.
At the age of 60, this risk had risen to 32%.
By the age of 70, the risk increased even more to 40%.
In addition, shorter sleep at the age of 50 was linked to a 25% greater risk of dying, primarily because of the increased risk of chronic disease.
The researchers also discovered that sleeping nine hours or more was associated with greater risks of multimorbidity in persons between the ages of 60 and 70.
There were only a few people for whom this was true, and the need for sleep may have been caused by the diseases themselves.
Despite its limitations, the study acknowledges that it relied on self-reported data on sleep, and the participants were only a “small proportion of non-white participants,’’ mainly from London.
Importance of sleep as we age
Irrespective of your age, job, or background, sleep experts agree that getting the right amount of sleep is important — and worrying too much about your sleep can be counterproductive.
Sleep needs also vary with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDSCO). CDSCO recommends that babies under one-year-old should sleep 16 hours per day, teens 10 hours, and adults and elderly seven or more hours.
How to enhance the quality of your sleep as you age?
Practicing Good sleep hygiene can enhance the quality of your sleep that includes:-
Maintaining a constant sleeping time and waking time every day, including weekends.
Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a relaxing temperature.
Making sure that the bedroom is free of any electronic devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones.
Before going to bed, avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine.
Physical activity/exercise during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends things that older adults can do to get better sleep.
The first step is to figure out if you have a sleep disorder. Insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea, and movement disorders like restless legs syndrome are the most common sleep problems that affect older individuals.
The majority of adults suffer from insomnia which can include taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up during the night, and waking up feeling tired.
Snoring is also a very common problem among 40% of adults.
In addition to disrupting a person’s sleep, both snoring and sleep apnea (a condition where a person periodically stops breathing during sleep), can also increase the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cognitive problems.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects more than 20% of people over the age of 80, according to AASM. RLS can cause sensations in the legs like tingling, pins, needles, or crawling, preventing a good night's sleep.
AASM suggests that you should see primary care doctor if you are frequently tired during the day and aren’t sleeping. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your sleep problems and suggest management and treatment options.