There are many benefits of having a good night of restful, uninterrupted sleep. However, in a new study researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have now discovered another potential benefit for having a good night sleep. The research, published in the July edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals that fragmented or interrupted sleep could predict future placement in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The study describes the link between objectively measured sleep and future institutionalization amongst older women.

Leading investigator Adam Spira, PhD, who is assistant professor at Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health, said:

“Sleep disturbances are common in older people. Our results show that in community-dwelling older women, more fragmented sleep is associated with a greater risk of being placed in a nursing home or in a personal care home. We found that, compared to women with the least fragmented sleep, those who spent the most time awake after first falling asleep had about 3 times the odds of placement in a nursing home. Individuals with the lowest sleep efficiency – those who spent the smallest proportion of their time in bed actually sleeping – also had about 3 times the odds of nursing home placement.”

Spira and his team discovered that interrupted sleep and placement in personal care homes, like assisted-living facilities featured a similar link of patterns and that the hours a person slept alone did not predict whether this person would subsequently live in either setting.

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.

In a prospective cohort study the team measured the sleep of women, aged on average 83 years old from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures asking them to wear movement-recording actigraphs on their non-dominant wrists for a duration of at least three days. The data was then analyzed to determine sleep and wake-time patterns. At the initial interview and at the follow-up five years later, the participants provided demographic information and their place of residence unlike in numerous other previous studies that investigated the same association, where participants were surveyed about sleep rather than collecting objective sleep data.

Senior researcher, Kristine Yaffe, MD, professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at San Francisco’s University in California explained:

“Despite the growing literature on sleep disturbance and disability, prior to our research very little was known about the association between sleep disturbance in older adults and risk of placement in long-term care facilities. Greater sleep fragmentation is associated with greater risk of placement in a nursing home or personal care home 5 years later after accounting for a number of potential confounders.”

Spira concludes: “It’s important to remember that this is an observational study, so our findings cannot demonstrate a conclusive causal link between sleep disturbance and placement in long-term care facilities. We need more research to explain how sleep disturbance might lead to this outcome, and whether interventions to improve sleep might prevent it.”

Written by Petra Rattue