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Pitt study: Western Pennsylvania seniors sleep better than expected

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Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Contrary to popular belief, most area senior citizens don't go to bed early.

When they do, they sleep well, University of Pittsburgh researchers said in a study released on Monday.

“We all have a picture in our minds of seniors going to bed at 9:30 at night and having a horrible night of sleep,” said Dr. Timothy Monk, the study's lead author and a professor of psychiatry at UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. “It really surprised us that a lot of these folks are sleeping quite well.”

Researchers interviewed about 1,200 retired people 65 and older in Western Pennsylvania. They found that more than half slept at least 7.5 hours per night. They slept mostly from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., which Monk said defies assumptions that senior citizens tend to go to bed early and don't sleep well.

The study, published in the journal Healthy Aging and Clinical Care, doesn't mean seniors don't have trouble sleeping.

About 25 percent of those interviewed reported significant sleep problems. Some said they needed sleeping pills, and others reported spending only 60 percent of the night asleep.

Complaints included waking extremely early and being unable to fall back asleep.

“For older adults, falling asleep is not the problem,” Monk said. “The issue is staying asleep. They might have pain from arthritis or simply have to go to the bathroom. That prevents them from going back to bed.”

Monk is recruiting volunteers for another study of people older than 60 with and without sleeping problems. For details, call 1-866-647-8283.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or

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