Elderly sleepers

Cautionary remarks

     It must be emphasized that in all of the foregoing, averaging has occurred and that individual differences, which are often quite pronounced, have been ignored. For example, the curve of a "typical" night of sleep, shown at the beginning of this section, is one derived from a large number of sleepers and deviations from it are almost the rule, rather than an exception. Moreover, some persons are able to sleep only 2 hours a night and are content that way, while most others require 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, depending on how old they are, for optimal functioning.

     It must also be kept in mind that most of the research performed thus far has been on college-aged individuals, because they are usually willing to participate in such studies and are readily available. Far fewer studies have been made with the elderly. These have shown, though, that their sleep tends to be interrupted fairly often during the night and tends to be less "deep". The difference between a typical night of sleep for a young person and that of an older one can be seen in the figure shown below:


On the other hand, older persons tend to have fewer nightmares and, in general, are less aggressive in their dreams (Funkhouser et al., 1999).

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