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Pitt Researchers To Study If A Siesta Is Beneficial To The Sleep Of Seniors

PITTSBURGH, May 9, 2000 — A clinical research project is underway at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to determine whether a siesta (afternoon nap) enables elderly individuals to remain wakeful and alert during the evening hours and prevents unwanted early evening sleepiness.

Aging is consistently associated with sleeping disorders. The elderly comprise the age group most severely affected by disorders associated with insomnia and the consumption of sleeping pills and tranquilizers. Many people suffer from Unwanted Early Evening Sleepiness (UEES), a disorder that is apparent when sleeping occurs in the early evening, either in the form of a nap, or of an excessively early bedtime.

"So many older people are troubled by falling asleep in the early evening when they have things to do and people to talk to; they then find themselves wide awake in the early hours of the morning when they have neither," said Timothy H. Monk, D.Sc., professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study. "The aim of this research is to see if we can help these folks without having to use sleep medications."

The study, which is funded by the National Institute on Aging, will be conducted at the Sleep and Chronobiology Center at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Researchers will try to determine whether siestas will provide seniors with more energy for the evening hours and help regulate nighttime sleep. With the information gathered from this study, researchers hope to develop a non-pharmacological intervention to eliminate the problems of poor or disrupted sleep in the elderly.

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