Have you ever gotten up to use the washroom at five in the morning and looked across the street to see your elderly neighbours making breakfast? They are both retired, but there they are, at five in the morning, preparing for a new day.

From observations like these, many people hold the misconception that senior citizens require less sleep than younger people. Sean Drummond, a sleep researcher for the University of California, recently disproved this urban myth.

Mr. Drummond conducted tests with two groups; one had an average age of 67, the other 29. His tests involved memory recall and required his subjects to remember a list of random words. The subjects were tested with varying sleep lengths and quality.

Drummond found that both age groups performed better when they were allowed to sleep longer. Interestingly, the younger group was affected more by the quality of rest. Quality did not seem to play a part in the performance of the senior group. Individuals from the senior group could have a fitful sleep, but if it were of appropriate length, there performance would not be affected.

This means that senior citizens need just as much sleep as their younger counterparts, but they also have the unusual ability to break up their sleeping schedule into smaller parts. As a result, seniors are more suited for mid-day napping, while young people need their sleep in a substantial block.

So that elderly neighbour across the street may be up at five, but chances are, they’re also down and out sometime in the afternoon for a quick siesta.

Isn’t retirement grand!