London: The belief that sleep quality declines in old age may be false, as a new study has found that it gets better with as you age.
In a telephonic survey of over 150,000 adults, a team at the University of Pennsylvania`s Center for Sleep & Circadian Neurobiology found that apart from a blip in their 40s, sleep quality of people improved with age.
And those in their 80s reported the best sleep, according to the study published in the journal Sleep.
Dr Michael Grandner, who led the study, said the original reason for setting up the research was to confirm the precise opposite -- that sleep quality declined in old age.
"These results force us to re-think what we know about sleep in older people -- men and women," Grandner was quoted as saying by the BBC News.
He suggested that it was possible that older people were sleeping worse, but simply felt better about it. "Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger
adults, feelings about it still improve with age," he said.
Universities have equipment to measure sleep duration and disturbance in study volunteers, but this doesn`t always match the volunteer`s opinion on their night`s rest.
Thus, the new research focused on asking large numbers of randomly selected people about their sleep. They were also asked about their race, income, education, mood and health.
While being depressed or having some health problems was linked to poor sleep quality, a distinct pattern emerged once the researchers adjusted the results to compensate for this.
They found that complaints about poor sleep quality fell as age rose, with the lowest number of complaints coming from the over-70s. The only exception to this trend was middle age, where sleep quality was poorer, the researchers said.
Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, Director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, said the study was "interesting".
"We`ve got to get away from all these myths about ageing -- many people are very content with their sleep," he said.
However, he said that asking people for their subjective opinion about sleep patterns could produce answers that were dependent on their mood at the time.