Sleeping well at night is important. Everyone wants to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. Rest is important to your overall health because it allows your body to repair and restore your energy levels.
Lack of sleep is bad for you.
It’s easy to be irritable or grumpy when you don’t sleep well. You’ll also be more prone to accidents if you’re not sleeping enough. Sleep is essential for a high quality of life, but far too many people are trying to sleep less.
Less sleep means more hours in the day to get things done.
And it seems like as a person gets older, they tend to sleep less. Do people sleep less as they age?
We’re going to find out.
Sleeping Habits and Age Changes
As a person ages, everything starts to change. Sleep needs will change throughout a person’s life, and this is normal. Children need more sleep than adults, and adults sleep a little less than their kids do.
However, with seniors, they need to sleep about the same amount of time as younger people: 7 to 9 hours a night.
What research has shown is that seniors are sleeping less. Older adults take a longer time to sleep, and one study found that in people 65 and older, the following occurred:
- 13% of men took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
- 36% of women took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
It’s taking seniors longer to fall asleep, but another occurrence is happening, too: interruption. Seniors are awoken easily, and this means that they’re far more likely to:
- Wake up in the middle of the night
- Toss and turn
- Nap during the day
Naps are common among seniors simply because they never truly get a good night of sleep. Another natural occurrence for seniors is that they will get tired much earlier in the evening, go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than their younger counterparts.
Scientists have found numerous explanations for the change in sleep cycle, and these explanations include:
- Slowing of melatonin production
- Environment disruptions
Seniors may be more prone to be disturbed by light or noises than their younger counterparts, causing them to sleep less.
Health and Medical Conditions May Contribute to the Problem
Health and Medical conditions may contribute to the lack of sleep a senior is experiencing. A lot of people believe that less sleep is the norm as we age, but it shouldn’t be. What studies have shown is that healthy seniors will report few or no disturbances while they sleep.
Yes, sleep patterns change, but healthy seniors tend to do best on seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Persistent fatigue and sleep disturbances are not part of the normal aging process; health issues are often to blame for the lack of sleep. Conditions like sleep apnea can cause serious health issues if left untreated. This condition can be treated many ways (eg. sleep apnea mouth piece, pillows), but it is best to talk to your doctor if you suffer from chronic snoring.
Sleep specialists can help determine the cause of a senior not sleeping enough. What researchers have found is that seniors without medical or psychiatric issues sleep better at night.
And when poor sleep does occur, it’s a compounded problem because lack of sleep leads to:
- Memory problems
- Daytime sleepiness
- Attention problems
When people have difficulty sleeping, they’ll often choose to take sleeping aids, which may not be beneficial either. Health and medical conditions, which often present when a person ages, are often the root cause of sleeping issues.
The problem is worsened by the body’s need to repair and rejuvenate.
How Seniors Can Promote a Better Night’s Sleep
Now that we know the answer to “do people sleep less when they age,” it’s important to know how to promote a better night’s sleep.
Sleeping better at night is important for a senior, and there are ways that you can promote a good night’s sleep:
- Follow a schedule. A key important aspect of getting better sleep is to actually follow a schedule. You need to stick to a schedule to follow the body’s circadian clock. When you follow a schedule, your internal clock is consistent, allowing you to sleep better.
- Exercise. Physical activity is a must for seniors, but it does more than just build muscle and bone strength. Studies find that exercising 3 – 4 hours before bed promotes better sleep quality.
- Get in the sun. The sun helps the body produce Vitamin D, and seniors should be getting 10 – 15 minutes in the sun daily.
- Reduce naps. The more you nap during the day, the less you’ll be able to sleep at night. Only nap when it’s a must, and try to avoid excessive sleeping during the day if you plan on being able to sleep at night.
Seniors that continue to have trouble sleeping should consult with a sleep specialist. A small change may be all that’s needed to return you back to a normal, healthy sleep cycle.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.