Monday, January 28, 2013

Do Old People Really Need Less Sleep?

Dear Madame L,

My grandma has trouble sleeping at night, but she says she doesn't need as much sleep as younger people do. She says in general people need less sleep as they get older. I do notice she takes a lot of naps during the day, though.


Not Much of a Napper, Myself

Dear Not Napping,

And your question was....?

Madame L is a big believer in getting lots of sleep. She has gone through periods when (because of work or studies or babies or illness get the idea) she couldn't get as much sleep as she wanted, and she SUFFERED. And so did her everyone around her.

But what's interesting about your grandma is that she's able to take naps during the day, which, for all Madame L knows, may partly make up for the sleep she loses at night. However, Madame L is guessing that your grandma would feel better if she could sleep more during the night.

Here's an interesting article about sleep and aging.  If you don't want to read the whole article, here's a short excerpt from it:

      "[Researchers found that] structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term. 

      "Previous research had found that the prefrontal cortex, the brain region behind the forehead, tends to lose volume with age, and that part of this region helps sustain quality sleep, which is critical to consolidating new memories. But the new experiment, led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first to directly link structural changes with sleep-related memory problems."

In other words, it's important for older people to get enough sleep, and more sleep over sustained periods of time, so their brain can keep memories better. 

There's more in the article about new techniques to help people, including older people, who have trouble sleeping. Madame L hopes you'll be able to help your grandma get enough sleep and do everything else she can to keep her body and her mind going strong.


Madame L

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