Older adults may need less sleep than younger people to feel rested the next day, suggests a new study. Researchers at the Clinical Research Centre of the University of Surrey recently found that older adults between ages 66 and 83 sleep 20 minutes less than middle-aged adults age 40 to 55 and 43 minutes less than 20-somethings. The amount of time people spent in deep sleep also decreased proportionally for both older age groups, according to the study published in the February issue of the journal SLEEP.
However, even though the older adults slept less, they didn’t report feeling more tired during the daytime than younger people. “Our findings reaffirm the theory that it is not normal for older people to be sleepy during the daytime,” says Derk-Jan Dijk, a professor of sleep and physiology at the University of Surrey in the U.K. and coauthor of the study. “Whether you are young or old, if you are sleepy during the day you either don’t get enough sleep or you may suffer from a sleep disorder.”
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Among the 110 study participants, younger people also fell asleep faster. When asked to lie in a comfortable position on a bed and try to fall asleep, young adults fell asleep in an average of 8.7 minutes, compared with 11.7 minutes for middle-aged adults and 14.2 minutes for seniors. According to the study’s authors, the findings suggest that healthy aging is associated with reductions in the sleep duration and depth required to feel alert during the daytime.