Sleep Disorders Affect Majority of Elderly in Mayo Clinic Study

by michellerogers on May 19, 2009

Sleep disorders are common in the elderly, according to researchers from Mayo Clinic who studied a large number of people in this age group in one Minnesota county.

Researchers report that 59 percent of 892 people age 70 to 89 had signs of at least one recognized sleep disorder other than insomnia. The most common disorder, reported by 32 percent of study participants, was sleep-related leg cramps. The study is one of the first to look at a broader spectrum of sleep disorders in a community’s elderly, and understanding the prevalence of these problems may lead to increased diagnosis and treatment.

 “All of these sleep disorders can disrupt a person’s quality of life, because they affect sleep,” says the study’s lead researcher, Jennifer Molano, M.D. “But if these problems are recognized, an accurate diagnosis could lead to successful treatment.” Researchers identified these other commonly reported disrupters of sleep:

· Obstructive sleep apnea — characterized by breathing pauses during sleep — occurred in 17.6 percent of participants. Men were four times more likely to have features of obstructive sleep apnea compared to women. · Periodic, involuntary movements in the legs or arms during sleep were experienced by 17.4 percent.

· A movement disorder known as REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) occurred in about 9 percent of participants. This happens when sleepers appear to act out their dreams. In this study, men were twice as likely to exhibit recurrent dream enactment behavior as women. The disorder was also seen more often in people age 80 or older who had worsening cognitive impairment or dementia.

· Restless legs syndrome — an irresistible urge to move legs associated with uncomfortable sensations — was suggested in about 8 percent of the study group. · Only 0.2 percent of participants were found to walk in their sleep.


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