Sleep and Aging

Many things change as you age. Energy is harder to come by. Your phys­i­cal strength may lapse. It may be harder to con­cen­trate. You may even be rocked by a desire to sit on your porch and yell at punks who won’t keep off your lawn. The qual­ity and dura­tion of your sleep will also likely change as you age.

One thing that will not change is the quan­tity of sleep you need to func­tion. Adults need 7–9 hours of nightly sleep through­out adult­hood in order to func­tion at opti­mum lev­els. It’s impor­tant to note that dif­fi­culty find­ing sleep or chronic day­time fatigue are not nor­mal at any age.

Stud­ies have shown the elderly and middle-aged peo­ple spend less time in deep sleep than younger adults. Reports point to an decrease in the ease of falling asleep after 65. A mul­ti­tude of fac­tors con­tribute to increased dif­fi­culty find­ing deep rest­ful sleep as we age. These fac­tors include:

  • Decreased secre­tion of the hor­mones that gov­ern the sleep/wake cycle
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Decreased expo­sure to nat­ural light
  • Phys­i­cal con­di­tions the inter­fere with sleep, like Peri­odic Limb Move­ments Dis­or­der, Rest­less Legs Syn­drome, and pain
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Med­ica­tions
  • Use of sub­stances like caf­feine, alco­hol, and nicotine

Some tips for improv­ing your sleep include:

  • Exer­cise reg­u­larly, but avoid stren­u­ous phys­i­cal activ­ity within three hours of bedtime.
  • Limit naps to 30 min­utes or less and take then in the early afternoon
  • Take a walk in the afternoon/or early evening to get some sunlight
  • Avoid caf­feine, alco­hol, and nico­tine, and limit liq­uid intake in the evenings
  • Keep to a reg­u­lar, con­sis­tent sleep sched­ule. Go to bed the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning