Older women who wake multiple times throughout the night or have what is termed "inefficient sleep," meaning they spend time lying awake in bed, could be more likely to require assistance with activities of daily living, according to a new study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported in The Atlantic.

Adam Spira, PhD, assistant professor at Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health, was the lead investigator on the study. The study included 1,664 women with a mean age of 84. Each participant was given an actigraph (a device that records movement) to wear for three days. This is a core difference between this study and similar research in the past, as most past research has asked participants to report their sleeping habits rather than taking objective measures. Researchers tracked the women's sleep patterns and followed up in five years to evaluate the current status of independent living in each participant. Overall, women who woke most frequently (inefficient sleep) were three times as likely to no longer be living independently.

[caption id="attachment_28867" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image by jam1978 on Stock.xchng"]Sleep disturbances linked to loss of independence in older women.[/caption]

However, the study found no significant correlation between the total amount of sleep and participants' independence at follow-up. The study, titled "Objectively Measured Sleep Quality and Nursing Home Placement in Older Women," is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

According to Medical News Today, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that aside from being linked to the onset of numerous diseases, insufficient sleep is also associated with various chronic diseases and conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Furthermore, it is responsible for motor vehicle accidents and other accidents involving machinery. Earlier research has also found an association between disturbed sleep and disability in older adults, as well as being impaired in daily living and mobility activities."

Senior researcher Kristine Yaffe, MD, professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at San Francisco's University in California, says that while further research is necessary to uncover exactly why and how sleep disturbances may lead to an increased risk of nursing home placement, this particular study did find a clear correlation between the two, even after accounting for potential confounding variables.