Daytime Sleepiness in People Over Age 65 May Be at Risk for Medical Conditions 

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep

According to a preliminary study, people over age 65 who experience daytime sleepiness may be at risk of developing medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. The study involved 10,930 participants and researchers interviewed participants over the phone twice, 3 years apart.

People over age 65 comprised 34% of participants. In the first interview, 23% of the participants more than age 65 met the criteria for excessive sleepiness. In the second interview, 24% reported excessive sleepiness, and 41% said it was a chronic problem. 

The study found that people who reported sleepiness in the first phone interview had a 2.3 times greater risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure 3 years later than those who did not report sleepiness. They were also twice as likely to develop cancer. 

People who reported daytime sleepiness during both interviews had a 2.5 times greater risk of developing heart disease.
Participants who reported sleepiness in the second interview were 50% more likely to have arthritis, tendinitis, and lupus than those who did not have daytime sleepiness. 

Of the 840 people who reported sleepiness at the first interview, 52 (6.2%) developed diabetes. Of those who were never sleepy during the day, 74 (2.9%) developed diabetes. Of the 840 people who reported sleepiness, 20 people (2.4%) developed cancer compared to 21 (0.8%) of those who were never sleepy during the day.

“Paying attention to sleepiness in older adults could help doctors predict and prevent future medical conditions,” said Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, PhD, DSc, of Stanford University. “Older adults and their family members may want to take a closer look at sleeping habits to understand the potential risk for developing a more serious medical condition.”

The study results will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, April 25 - May 1, 2020.

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