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Daily social/physical activity improves sleep and cognition in the elderly

More than half of adults over the age of 65 have trouble sleeping, characterized by both lighter sleep and frequent awakenings during the night. A decline in cognitive function is common with advanced age, and research has shown that disturbed sleep in younger adults and in the elderly causes daytime sleepiness and negatively affects cognitive performance.

Now, a study by sleep researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggests that even short-term exposure to either morning or evening social and physical activity improves cognitive performance and subjective sleep quality in the elderly.

The study, by Susan Benloucif, Phyllis Zee, M.D., and colleagues is described in an article in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Sleep.

Benloucif is associate professor and Zee is professor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurological Sciences at Feinberg.

"Many of the health changes associated with aging, including the decline in sleep and cognitive abilities, can be attributed to sedentary lifestyles and social disengagement among older individuals," Benloucif said.

"Evidence suggests that maintenance of social engagement and avoidance of social isolation are important factors in maintaining cognitive vitality in old age," Benloucif said.

Twelve older men and women (between 67 and 86 years) living in retirement facilities and residential apartments participated in the pilot study at Northwestern.

All 12 were healthy older adults or adults with chronic but stable medical conditions and independent in their activities of daily living.

The study consisted of a daily 90-minute session over a 14-day period that included 30 minutes of mild physical activity, 30 minutes of social interaction and a final 30 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity. Sessions began with warm-up stretching and mild to moderate physical activity (walking, stationary upper and lower body exercises), f
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
14-Dec-2004


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