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October 22, 1997

'Old and Gray and Full of Sleep'? Not Always

Author Affiliations

JAMA contributor

JAMA. 1997;278(16):1302-1304. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550160022011

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PERSISTENT MYTHS about sleep in late life may deter older adults from bringing sleep troubles to their physicians and physicians from pursuing often-remediable symptoms.

It is not true, sleep specialists asserted in recent interviews, that:

• poor sleep is an inevitable consequence of aging;

• older people need less sleep;

• daytime drowsiness and earlymorning awakenings are normal in later years; or

• little can be done for menopauserelated sleep complaints.

The afflictions that often accompany age are a bigger factor in troubled sleeping than old age itself, "not a subtle distinction," insisted Andrew Monjan, PhD, chief of the neurobiology of aging branch of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Bethesda, Md.

An NIA study, Monjan said, found that more than half of 9000 communityliving persons aged 65 years and older reported trouble in such areas as falling asleep or staying asleep, waking too early, needing to nap, and not