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Sleep and Aging: Prevalence of Disturbed Sleep and Treatment Considerations in Older Adults

Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD

Published: November 15, 2005

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Find more articles on this and other psychiatry and CNS topics:
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders

Article Abstract

Although sleep patterns change with age, it is the change in the ability to sleep that precipitatessleep complaints in older adults. Waking not rested, waking too early, trouble falling asleep, daytimenapping, nocturnal waking, and difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep are among the chief sleepcomplaints of older adults. The consequences of poor sleep include difficulty sustaining attention,slowed response time, difficulty with memory, and decreased performance. Both medical and psychiatricconditions as well as the medications used to treat them lead to sleep complaints in older adults.Circadian rhythm disturbances and primary sleep disorders may also result in sleep complaints. Appropriatetreatment may be dictated by severity of symptoms and concurrent medications. Efficaciouspharmacologic interventions are the nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone.Two new agents, ramelteon, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationfor use in adults with insomnia, and immediate release and modified release indiplon, whichis currently under investigation, have been effective in clinical trials. Cognitive-behavioral therapyalone and in combination with medication have been effective in improving sleep in older adults.Sleep disturbance is not a natural consequence of aging, but rather a treatable condition.

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