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Elderly Sleep

August 27, 2014

Insomnia in older adults is due to a failure in brain circuitry.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Brain cells for shut eye. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As people age, they often find it harder to sleep.

CLIFFORD SAPER (Harvard Medical School):

People by the time they’re in their 70s typically are sleeping at least an hour a day less when they were in their 20s or 30s.

HIRSHON:

That’s Harvard Medical School neurologist Clifford Saper. He and his team have now identified neurons called galinin cells that are likely responsible for the sleep deficits.

SAPER:

And what we found is that as people age they do have a much lower number of these nerve cells, and the people with the lowest numbers of these nerve cells slept the worst. And the people who had the most of them had the most consolidated sleep.

HIRSHON:

He says people with Alzheimer’s disease had the fewest galinin cells of all. In addition to cognitive decline, insomnia in older people contributes to fatigue, hardening of the arteries, and poor glucose metabolism. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.