Sleep and Aging
Pp. 52-59 (8)
Modern advances in science and technology have resulted in a steady increase in life
expectancy of human beings, especially in developed countries. In the United States, the current
average life expectancy at birth is 80 years for females and 75 years for males. At age 65, the
current average life expectancy is 20 years for females and 17 years for males . This trend
implies a gradual increase in the proportion of older adults in the general population, and that the
elderly will account for an increasing and significant proportion of patients seen by physicians in
most clinical disciplines. For this reason, understanding the aging process and the associated
changes in different organs and systems is of paramount importance. In addition, older adults
themselves should be aware of normal age-related changes (changes in their functional status that
is the result of aging per se), and changes that are consequences of conditions (diseases, effect of
medications) that adversely affect their health or functional status. Knowledge of these
potentially reversible factors would empower older adults, and enable them to interact with their
health care providers and participate in decision making process.
“Successful aging” is one term used to describe the impact of aging on an individual. In
general, the term implies absence of disease-related disability, good physical and mental
activity and active engagement in daily life activities . Sleep-related factors have been
shown to be significantly associated with measures that indicate successful aging. In the next
sections, we will discuss changes in sleep that are observed among otherwise healthy older
adults (considered to be changes that are the results of normal aging), as well as sleep
disorders that are commonly encountered among older adults.
Associate Professor, Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.