how did you sleep last night
Not so good if you’re like many Americans: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35 percent of American adults are regularly sleep deprived.
It’s not just annoying, because sleeping less than seven hours a night increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress.
This problem is especially acute among older adults, who often struggle with sleep disturbances. Like all adults, older adults need about seven to nine hours a night.
But according to the National Institute on Aging, older adults tend to fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier than when they were younger.
Sleep problems in older adults may be exacerbated by pain, illness, or certain medications.
Dr. Amir Baniassadi of the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute on Aging explained in a news release that most research on sleep problems has focused on physical and behavioral factors, although the environment can also play a role.
To understand the link between bedroom temperature and sleep quality, Baniassadi and his colleagues at Hebrew Senior Living, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, collected nearly 11,000 nights of sleep data from 50 older adults.
Using wearable sleep monitors and environmental sensors, the researchers monitored sleep duration, productivity and restlessness levels over extended periods of time in the participants’ homes.
The findings, published in the journal Science of the Holistic Environment, show that older adults sleep most efficiently and restfully when the ambient temperature at night is between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition, the researchers observed a general trend: As the ambient temperature increased from 77°F to 86°F, sleep efficiency decreased by 5% to 10%.
“These results highlight the potential for improving sleep quality in older adults by optimizing the home thermal environment and emphasizing the importance of individualizing temperature regulation according to individual needs and circumstances,” Baniasadi said.
Personal preference is also an important consideration, as the research also revealed significant differences between study subjects in terms of optimal bedroom temperature — in other words, some people prefer heat while others prefer to keep it cool.
That’s one reason many couples opt for “sleep divorce,” where they sleep in separate beds — like 1960s sitcom couples — or even in separate rooms.
“For some couples, there are benefits to sleeping apart,” Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, a consultant with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told CBS News. “Research shows that when one bed partner suffers from a sleep disorder, it can negatively affect the other sleeper.”
A recent AASM survey revealed that couples are using strategies like earplugs, eye masks, silent alarm clocks and different sleep schedules to accommodate each other and ensure a good night’s sleep.
But more than a third of those surveyed skipped all these stopgap measures, opting instead to build a wall between themselves and the source of their waking pain: their spouse.
Other tips for getting a good night’s sleep include avoiding eating and drinking late at night, avoiding alcohol, and not consuming caffeine later in the day.
The authors of the room temperature study plan to continue this investigation, focusing on the potential impact of a warming climate on sleep in low-income older adults and developing interventions to optimize the sleep environment for these individuals.