Research Shows Aging Population Must Have Two Crucial Things: Sleep and Family

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As people live longer, and have more time, energy, and advicey Instagram posts to devote to finding real happiness, researchers have been studying just what it does take to live a fulfilling life. For elderly adults, including those in nursing homes and extended care facilities, there is a simple, yet oh-so-complex answer — sleep and family.

A recent study in BMC Geriatrics found that proper, restorative sleep and healthy family function contributed to the overall happiness of individuals in the nursing home. (1) The Chinese study had 127 older adults between the ages of 60 and 93 complete three surveys, including the Life Satisfaction Index A (LSI-A), Family APGAR Index, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). These surveys were completed in face-to-face interviews and were read aloud to participants who couldn’t read or suffered from poor vision. The results were clear — older adults in facilities need those two things to feel happy and satisfied.

The study found that sleep quality mediated family function in the satisfaction of participants’ lives. The study also found that sleep quality and family function and support were predictive of their overall happiness.

It’s not the first time researchers have looked to these particular must-haves to determine how they impact our perception of life. A 2023 study found that poor sleep quality among nursing home residents led to poorer health and frailty. (2) After all, after decades of sleeping in your own bed uninterrupted, the comfort and potential disruptions in a nursing home might prove difficult for quality sleep in some cases. 

A 2023 study out of Taiwan found that improving relationships between nursing home residents and their families improved psychological and emotional health for both resident and family caregivers. (3) This adds to a body of research showing the importance of not just family, but community, on our overall mental and physical health and well-being.

Adults might not realize it, as “old age” shows up in a sneaky way on its own time, but our sleep patterns, and our sleep needs change as we age. For example, older adults might find they don’t have the stamina they used to, and might feel better with an afternoon nap to be refreshed for the rest of the day. Older adults might also struggle with other medical conditions that impede on their ability to fall and stay asleep, from orthopedic issues to mental health concerns.

But, with a little love and support from family, friends and caregivers, and a bit more information on how to sleep in a nursing home, they just might find themselves rested and refreshed, and a bit happier with better sleep.


1. Zhu, W., Wang, Y., Tang, J. et al. Sleep quality as a mediator between family function and life satisfaction among Chinese older adults in nursing home. BMC Geriatr 24, 379 (2024).

2. Lorber M, Kmetec S, Davey A, Mlinar Reljić N, Fekonja Z, Kegl B. Associations between Sleep Quality, Frailty, and Quality of Life among Older Adults in Community and Nursing Home Settings. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2023; 20(6):4937.

3. Wu C-C, Tsai H-H, Huang H-L, Wang Y-W, Huang C-H, Liu C-Y. Depression in nursing home residents and its correlation with meaning of family involvement and depression of family. International Psychogeriatrics. 2023;35(2):67-75. doi:10.1017/S1041610221002842

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost

Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice.  She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.

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