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Doctors neglect insomnia in older patients

itivity to pain. If you have a problem with depression, one of the criteria is a change in sleep," Reid said.

She acknowledges science doesn't know what comes first the sleep problems that can cause health problems or the health difficulties that disrupt sleep.

But treating the sleep disorders results in improved health and quality of life, Reid noted. Some options include meditation, exercise, and bright light or evening activity to push back circadian rhythm for people who wake up too early.

In the study, 1,503 participants from 11 primary care sites serving mainly elderly patients were interviewed. Researchers reviewed medical charts to determine whether sleep problems were identified by the health care providers. A total of 68.9 percent of patients reported at least one sleep complaint and 40 percent had two or more. Even when all five sleep questions on the survey were endorsed, a sleep complaint was only reported in the patient chart 19.2 percent of the time. Patients ranged from 62 to 100 years old, the average age being 75.5 years.

Researchers found excessive daytime sleepiness was the best predictor of poor physical and mental health. Simply asking a patient, "Do you feel sleepy during the day?" will clue doctors whether to pursue further questioning about sleep in a patient.


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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
3-Jan-2007


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