Aging and sleep
As we age, we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns, such as becoming sleepy earlier, waking up earlier, or not sleeping as deeply. However, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are NOT a normal part of aging.
Sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health as it was when you were younger. A good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease.
Older people who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, and experience more night time falls. Insufficient sleep can also lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer in women.
To improve your quality of sleep it’s important to understand the underlying causes of your sleep problems. The following tips can help you identify and overcome age-related sleep problems, get a good night’s rest, and improve the quality of your waking life.
How much sleep do older adults need?
While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, how you feel in the morning is more important than a specific number of hours. Frequently waking up not feeling rested or feeling tired during the day are the best indications that you're not getting enough sleep.
How does aging affect sleep?
As you age your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you'll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep (an especially refreshing part of the sleep cycle). When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you'll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night.
That's why many of us consider ourselves “light sleepers” as we age. You may also:
Want to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the
Have to spend longer in bed at night to get the hours of sleep you need, or make up the shortfall by taking a nap during the day.
In most cases, such sleep changes are normal and don't indicate a sleep problem. Sleep problems not related to age
At any age, it's common to experience occasional sleep problems. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, you may be dealing with a sleep disorder:
Have trouble falling asleep even though you feel tired.
Have trouble getting back to sleep when awakened.
Don't feel refreshed after a night's sleep.
Feel irritable or sleepy during the day.
Have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television, or driving.
Have difficulty concentrating during the day.
Rely on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep.
Have trouble controlling your emotions.