Med thumb old man resting

Older people sleep less than middle-agers, but get higher-quality rest once they’re out cold, says a new study published in the Annals of Medicine.

For the sake of promoting general well-being, as well as getting a grasp on various diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand how patterns change with respect to gender and age. But, it’s still something of a mystery.

To fill in the gaps, researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland evaluated sleep patterns in 6733 Swiss adults between 35 and 75 years old. Per a University press release, researchers incorporated both subjective (sleep questionnaires) and objective (EEG sleep studies) measures into their analysis. People with extant sleep disorders were excluded from the study so the results reflected the evolution of sleeping habits in a healthy population.

In making sense of the somewhat inconsistent results, researchers suggested that, while people may not enjoy better, longer slumber as they age, they do adjust their expectations for sleep and acclimate to functioning on the hours they’re able to log.

Additionally, researchers discovered that:

  • As people get older, they gradually become morning larks.
  • While older people appear to sleep for shorter periods of time, they still complain less about feeling tired when they’re awake and suffer from much lower rates of pathological-level sleepiness.
  • Elders rated quality-of-sleep and daytime functioning levels as comparably higher than the (not-quite) youths did, which, coupled with the above, suggested to researchers that older people might just need less shut-eye. (Ed. Note: Is it possible that we younger-than-boomers are in the habit of complaining about the sleep we miss and work we have?)
  • Not everything about sleep changes for the better with each passing birthday: For women, sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to nod off) increases with age. But men, the simple creatures that they are, aren’t plagued by more eyes-wide-open time as they get older.
  • All older people, gender notwithstanding, wake up more easily after they fall asleep.

So, all things considered, it doesn’t really hurt to grow old. Unless you love sleeping in. Then it’s a bit of a drag.