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 Sleep Patterns Impact Nursing Home Placement For Women

Women with low sleep efficiency and high levels of sleep disturbances may be more susceptible to placement in nursing homes or assisted living communities.

A report released recently by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied approximately 1,700 women in the “Study of Osteoporotic Fractures,” a prospective cohort study of aging, whose average age was 82. Actigraphs, small devices that qualify sleep by recording movement, were distributed and worn on all participants’ wrists, allowing researchers to study patterns between participants’ wake and sleep stages, for at least a three-day period.

After analyzing their collected data, researchers requested follow-up interviews with all participants five years later to determine whether or not they had been subsequently institutionalized.

“Sleep disturbances are common in older people,” said Adam Spira, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health. In fact, his study estimates that “more than 40 percent of adults aged 65 and older report difficulty falling or staying asleep.”

Spira continued, “Individuals with the lowest sleep efficiency—those who spent the smallest proportion of their time in bed actually sleeping—also had about three times the odds of nursing home placement.”

Interestingly enough, the study found no conclusive data to suggest that the number of hours slept had any connection to older women’s future placement in long term care facilities.

Past research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found common ties between disturbed slumber and increased risk of developing chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. Some findings suggest that poor sleep can even result in a higher risk of developing debilitating disabilities.

In a press release issued by the university, Spira acknowledged that his current research just scratches the surface of the bigger issue concerning the potential repercussions of poor sleeping patterns in older women.

“It’s important to remember that this is an observational study, so our findings cannot demonstrate a conclusive causal link between sleep disturbance and placement in long term care facilities.” Spira concluded. “We need more research to explain how sleep disturbance might lead to this outcome and whether interventions to improve sleep might prevent it.”
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