05:45am Monday 14 October 2019

Elderly men sleep worse than women

Elderly men think they sleep much better than women of their age. In reality, however, men sleep worse. They have more difficulty falling asleep and wake up more often during the night. These are the findings of research carried out into the sleep and sleep perception of the elderly, conducted by, among other, Erasmus MC. The researchers reported their findings in the leading scientific journal Sleep. Until now it was thought that men are better sleepers than women.


The way in which people rate their sleep has an effect on their daily lives. People who think they sleep poorly, feel less healthy. While people who say they have had a good night’s rest, are happier. This is one of the reasons why the researchers wanted to find out how men and women rate the quality of their own sleep. And whether these ideas correspond to reality. This is particularly interesting among the elderly as they have more sleep problems. “As the brain ages, people find it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night”, according to Henning Tiemeier, University head lecturer at Erasmus MC.

As part of the study, almost 1000 elderly people (aged 59 to 97 years) kept a sleep diary. They also rated the quality of their sleep. It showed that men estimated that they slept for a total of seven hours per night. That was 13 minutes more than indicted by the women. However, when the researchers measured the actual number of hours slept using special measurement equipment, it appears that it is the exact other way round, namely, men actually sleep 15 minutes less than women do. In addition, they also sleep 37 minutes shorter than they themselves estimated and they are more restless.

The results are striking as various other studies have shown that women complain more often than men of insomnia. The sex differences between the perceived sleep and the actual sleep is due to the fact that men overestimate their sleep duration.   “Women estimate more accurately. It is not because women are more likely to be complainers”,  emphasized Tiemeier.

The reasons for poor sleep differ between men and women. Women are more likely to lay awake because they worry or are depressed. Alcohol consumption is more often the cause among men. On average, men consume twice as much as women do. Tiemeier: “Alcohol is bad for a good night’s sleep”.

Erasmus MC is the largest and most authoritative scientific University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Almost 13,000 staff members work within the core tasks of patient care, education, and scientific research on the continuous improvement and enforcement of individual patient care and social healthcare. They develop high-level knowledge, pass this on to future professionals, and apply it in everyday patient care. Over the next five years, Erasmus MC wants to grow into one of the best medical institutes in the world. Erasmus MC is part of the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers (NFU). See www.ntfu.nl

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