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Sleep Deprivation and the Elderly

Narrator:        This is Science Today. The issue of sleep deprivation usually conjures up images of harried, working mothers, busy corporate executives or college students, but this is a common trend amongst older people, too. In fact, Dr. Kathryn Lee, a professor in the Department of Family Health Care Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, says as we get older, we get less sleep.

Lee:    People in retirement don't have to keep a schedule like working, employed people do. So they tend to sleep in, go to bed later and yet they're getting less sleep and they're worried about it, which makes it a self-fulfilling process. And they just need to be aware that as long as you're awake and alert during the day, it doesn't matter how much sleep you get during the night. It's when you fall asleep during the day when you don't intend to, that you really need to have a very careful assessment of your sleep.

Narrator:        Lee led a recent survey of women sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation that found that more than half of those polled were getting fewer than one or two nights of good sleep each week. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.