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Day-time sleep and active ageing in later life

  • SUSAN VENN (a1) and SARA ARBER (a1)

The concept of ‘active ageing’ has received much attention through strategic policy frameworks such as that initiated by the World Health Organisation, and through government and non-governmental organisation initiatives. The primary goal of these initiatives is to encourage older people to be active and productive, and to enhance quality of life, health and wellbeing. It is well known that with increasing age, night-time sleep deteriorates, which has implications for how older people maintain activity levels, and leads to an increased propensity for day-time sleep. Using data from 62 interviews with people aged 65–95 years living in their own homes who reported poor sleep, this paper explores the meanings of day-time sleep, and how the attitudes and practices of ‘active ageing’ are intricately linked to the management of day-time sleep and bodily changes that arise from the ageing process. The desire to be active in later life led to primarily dichotomous attitudes to day-time sleep; older people either chose to accept sleeping in the day, or resisted it. Those who accepted day-time sleep did so because of recognition of decreasing energy in later life, and an acknowledgement that napping is beneficial in helping to maintain active lives. Those who resisted day-time sleep did so because time spent napping was regarded as being both unproductive and as a negative marker of the ageing process.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Susan Venn, Centre for Research on Gender and Ageing (CRAG), Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK. E-mail:
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