Recent Advances in Understanding Sleep and Sleep Disturbances in Older Adults
Growing Older Does Not Mean Sleeping Poorly
Association for Psychological Science Volume 18—Number 6
Michael V. Vitiello
Despite commonly held assumptions, growing older does not necessarily result in disturbed or unsatisfying sleep. There is no reason to assume, a priori, that the sleep of an older adult is necessarily problematic; in fact, many high-functioning older adults are satisfied with their sleep. When the various factors that can disrupt sleep— poor health, primary sleep disorders, poor sleep-hygiene practices (e.g., irregular sleep schedules and poor sleeping environments), and so on—are screened out, ‘‘optimally’’ or ‘‘successfully’’ aging older adults, assuming they remain healthy, can expect to experience little further change in their sleep and are not likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness and the concomitant need to nap regularly during the day. Nevertheless, the majority of older adults, who are not optimally aging, suffer significant sleep disturbances from a variety of causes. Fortunately, our growing understanding of how sleep changes with aging and of the causes of these changes is informing ever-improving treatments for these disturbances, thereby helping to ensure that growing older does not mean sleeping poorly.