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Elderly Women Sleep Better Than They Think, Men Nap Worse

ROTTERDAM  – Elderly women sleep better than elderly men even though women consistently report that their sleep is shorter and poorer, says a new study.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, found that women reported less and poorer sleep than men on all of the subjective measures, including a 13.2 minute shorter total sleep time (TST), 10.1 minute longer sleep onset latency (SOL), and a 4.2 percent lower sleep efficiency. When sleep was measured objectively, however, women slept 16 minutes longer than men, had a 1.2 percent higher sleep efficiency, and had less fragmented sleep.

Multivariate regression analysis showed that these discrepancies were partly explained by determinants of sleep duration such as sleep medication use and alcohol consumption.

Principal investigator Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said he was surprised that women slept longer and better, and reported their sleep duration more accurately, than men.

“The difference between subjective and objective sleep quality arise not because women are more likely to be complainers, but because men strongly overestimate their sleep duration,” said Tiemeier.

The study involved 956 participants between the ages of 59 and 79 years; 52.3 percent were women. Information was obtained from the Rotterdam Study, a population-based cohort study aimed at assessing the occurrence of and risk factors for chronic diseases in the elderly.