Take a guess.
You got it: better sleep may actually be one of the secret benefits of living longer and living healthier. A study in the May 1 issue of the journal Sleep indicates that sleep factors big time into one’s quality of life and longevity. This is an important study because it’s the first to look at sleep issues in a large sample of exceptionally old adults—including 3,927 who were between 90 and 99 years of age and 2,800 people who had reached the century mark!
Some of the finer details and findings of this latest study, which took place among China’s elderly population, were:
There’s no question that health conditions, which often develop the older we get, can cut into the quality of sleep. And there’s also no doubt that access to quality medical care, and having enough money to live (less stress!) factors into sleep quality. I wonder if older adults reportedly slept better than their younger counterparts because they were better at handling stress? (It’s been reported that the wisdom of age bears the wisdom of knowing how to cope with stress.)
Because China's has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, which includes the largest elderly population in the world, it’s the perfect testing ground for studying healthy longevity. According to the World Bank, China has nearly 40.5 million people who are 75 years of age and older—another reason why observing how this population sleeps can result in some valuable findings.
So would these findings translate equally in a country like the USA? Most likely, yes. Sleep is a universal experience and a universally necessary ingredient to life. We may live with a different set of risks when it comes to disease, health conditions, and whether or not we will see “100” on a birthday cake, but we all could benefit the same from getting a good night’s rest on a first birthday, tenth, or one-hundredth.
Studies like this one highlight the value sleep even when health conditions come into play. I’d love to see a similar study that asks (and answers) the “reverse” question: Does the quality of sleep later in life have an impact on the prognosis of age-related disease and illness?
The answer, I believe, is likely to be a resounding yes.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™