Several generalizations can be made regarding sleep and aging characteristics. Compared with younger persons, elderly persons tend to achieve less total nighttime sleep. However, it cannot be assumed that elderly persons require less sleep.
Sleep related complaints and use of sedative hypnotics are more common in the older population than in younger patients. As with most bodily functions, sleep deteriorates as we age.
Several primary sleep disorders are associated with aging. Primary sleep disorders may delay sleep onset, cause multiple arousals and awakenings, and promote excessive daytime sleepiness.
Wandering behavior and confusional arousals may occur, especially in patients with dementing disorders. In rare instances, behaviors emanating from sleep may result in serious injury to the patient or bed partner.
Although the elderly spend more time in bed, they have more awakenings, less slow-wave sleep, lower sleep efficiency, and are more easily aroused from sleep. Increased daytime sleepiness may be the effect of such a pattern.