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Sleep Changes as We Age

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sleep change with age

Last Updated on October 6, 2021 by ashley.davis


Sleep is vital for everyone regardless of their age. But we can experience Sleep Changes as We Age. Understanding those changes and learning what you can do to improve sleep as you get older, will help you get quality sleep at any age.

Sleep Needs of Seniors

Some people think that seniors need less sleep than younger adults. While older people may need slightly less sleep than younger adults, it is not by much. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep needs remain consistent throughout a person’s life. 

Although individual sleep needs may vary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults over age 65 get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night. While they suggest, adults age 18 to 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. 

Why Sleep Changes as We Age

Although our sleep needs to stay consistent as we age, our ability to sleep well often decreases. Several factors may contribute to a change in sleep in older adults. For example, as you age, you produce less growth hormone, which affects how much time you spend in a deep sleep. You may still sleep seven or eight hours a night, but less time is spent in a deep sleep. 

It is also common for seniors to develop a pattern of sleeping, referred to as advanced sleep phase syndrome. This pattern of sleeping involves going to bed early and waking up early. 

Sleep also becomes more fragmented as we get older. Older adults tend to wake up more often and easier than younger adults. An increase in nighttime awakenings leads to a decrease in restorative sleep

Insomnia is also common in older adults. According to research in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology, up to 40 to 50 percent of people over age 60 report disturbed sleep, including insomnia.

Senior man and his pet dog sleeping comfortably

There are several reasons that sleep may change as we get older, including the following: 

Medical conditions: Some older adults develop chronic medical conditions, such as arthritis, COPD, or heart problems. Medical conditions can cause symptoms that interfere with getting a goods night’s sleep. 

Medication side effects: It is not uncommon for older adults to take medication for certain medical conditions. Some medications can lead to side effects that may interfere with sleep. 

Sleep disorders: Although sleep disorders can occur at any age, some types of problems, such as apnea, are more common as we get older. 

Sleep Hygiene Tips

It is still possible to get good sleep as you get older. There are several things you can do to improve your sleep, including the following: 

  • Keep a similar sleep schedule nightly: Try to go to bed and wake at the same time each night to help your body develop a rhythm. 
  • Treat pain: Pain can greatly affect your ability to sleep. Talk to your doctor about ways to decrease pain, such as medication, biofeedback, and massage. 
  • Exercise: Getting regular exercise improves overall well-being, and that includes sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. 
  • Create a good sleep environment: Make sure your bedroom is sleep-friendly. Keep it at a temperature that is comfortable for you and block out noise and sunlight. 
  • Limit napping: A nice long nap can feel good. But if you are napping too much, it can affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Try to keep naps to 30 minutes or less. 

Finding ways to improve sleep will help you get the rest you need. Using multiple strategies above is your best bet. Remember quality sleep is an important part of healthy living for seniors. Please check out BoomersHub Blog’s Health & Fitness section for more tips on living well as you age.

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