Study: Doctors Don't Take Sleep Problems Of Elderly Seriously

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January 15, 2007 5:34 a.m. EST
Komfie Manalo – All Headline News Correspondent
Los Angeles, CA (AHN) – Researchers at the Northwestern University in the U.S. have found that most doctors ignore the sleep problems of older patients, despite the fact that a large majority of them have these complaints.

The scientists based their findings in a study of some 1,503 patients aged 60 and above who seeks treatment from primary-care doctors.

They found that at least 69 percent of those polled said they have one sleep problem, and 40 percent had two or more sleep complaint. Some 45 percents of the patients admitted having “difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or being able to sleep.”

The result of the study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. It said that doctors rarely report their patients sleep complaints although the patients told them of their problem. A big majority of those surveyed have indicated sleep problems in all five questions on the survey, it said.

They noted that addressing sleeping problem is important to a patients’ being because it is linked with poor mental and physical health and quality of life.

Kathryn Reid, a research assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine said, “A doctor may not think that it’s very important to ask the patient about sleep. We (the researchers) hypothesize that doctors think that sleep problems are a normal part of aging, and there’s not much they can do about it.”

She explained that while sleep problems, including a reduction in deep sleep, is linked to aging, it is not always part of aging. Recent study has shown that in older people with exceptionally good health, a mere one percent had difficulty sleeping.

Reid adds, “Now, a lot of studies show that not getting enough sleep can lower your metabolic function; be associated with cardiovascular problems, cancer and breast cancer in women; and increase our mortality. Sleep deprivation also increases your sensitivity to pain.”

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