Sleeping as You Age

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together” – Thomas Dekker (English dramatist, 1572-1632)

Getting older often means that getting a good night’s sleep is not as simple as it used to be. The changes in sleep patterns seniors experience are a normal part of the aging process, but even so, the effects can be unpleasant at best, and unhealthy or dangerous, at worst.

Older people can have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Although many people believe that seniors need less sleep than when they were younger, this is not true. Research has shown that adults need the same amount of sleep throughout their lives, so why do seniors have so much trouble attaining their needed sleep quotient?

Patterns of sleep are called by experts “sleep architecture.” This sleep architecture changes as we age, and some believe these changes contribute to some of the difficulties people experience with sleep when they get older. Sleep takes place in three forms, deep sleep, light sleep, and active, dreaming sleep- also known as REM sleep. The total amount of time sleeping remains constant throughout adulthood, but the amount of each type of sleep changes. Studies suggest that since more time is spent in light sleep as we age, it is easier for our sleep to be disturbed.

Other problems can interfere with a good night’s sleep, including snoring, sleep apnea, changing circadian rhythms, and more. If you notice that you are not enjoying sleep as much as you used to, or that you are tired during the day, perhaps it is time to ask a doctor about it. For many sleep problems there are simple solutions. It is good advice to seek help, and get back to sleep!