Inadequate Sleep Can Lead to Senior Health Problems

by Lois Etienne on March 2, 2011

in Senior Health and Safety

Question: My 80-year-old mother stays up half the night watching old movies or playing Solitaire. I can’t convince her that this isn’t good for her health. Sometimes I think she doesn’t have enough to do during the day, but I work full-time so I just can’t get over there regularly.Senior_Woman

Here’s a sobering note: lack of sleep has been found to be a new risk factor for colon cancer. A study finds individuals who averaged less than six hours of sleep at night had an almost 50 percent increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas – a precursor to cancer tumors – compared with those sleeping at least seven hours per night. These untreated adenomas polyps can become malignant.

This new research just adds to the list of risks associated with lack of sleep such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even death.

Of the 1,240 patients studied – who were receiving routine colonoscopies – 338 were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas at their tests. The patients with adenomas were found in general to have reported sleeping less than six hours compared with those patients without adenomas (control) patients. The association between amount of sleep and adenomas remained even when adjusted for family history, smoking and waist-to-hip ratio (a measurement of obesity).

Researchers reported the magnitude of the increase in risk due to less hours of sleep as comparable to the risk associated with having a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with colon cancer, as well as with high, red meat intake.

Try to encourage your mother to visit her doctor. There could be health or medication-related reasons why she is having trouble sleeping.

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