• Poor quality sleep can impair older people's physical function

    October 01, 2020

    Research coordinated by the University of Oviedo also shows a risk of greater fragility in older people

    Research involving the University of Oviedo concludes that the worse the quality of sleep, the worse the function in their legs and the strength in their arms. The study was conducted with 392 people selected from health centres in Asturias, aged 65 and over, who sleep badly and are more fragile (that is, at greater risk of losing their independence in the event of stressful physical or mental situations - such as flu, falling or anxiety). The research, published in the journal Family Practice, also involved the Principality of Asturias' health department, CIPERSP (Centre for Networked Biomedical Research into Epidemiology and Public Health) and the Autonomous University of Madrid. The research was coordinated by Alberto Lana Pérez from the University of Oviedo's Department of Medicine.
    The conclusions from the study can be applied in particular to people who visit health centres more frequently and who most need to delay functional deterioration. The research team therefore considers it appropriate that primary care medical and nursing staff routinely ask older people about the quality of their nightly sleep, if possible establishing the origin of any disorders and suggesting ways of improving their sleep hygiene beyond the normal pharmacological treatments.  
    The amount of sleep was not related to physical functioning, and therefore the paper's authors believe that the best advice is for each person to get the amount of sleep they consider necessary to feel rested in the morning.
    Spain has one of the oldest populations and its culture and climate means that it has a different sleep schedule to other European countries. However, the influence that night-time sleep quality and quantity have on physical function has been little studied in Spain. Demonstrating this may be useful because night-time sleep disturbances are common in older people - for a number of reasons (such as chronic pain, frequent urination, adverse effects of drug treatments, states of anxiety, abnormal schedules, daytime naps, and so on) and some of these can be treated or at least delayed.