Sleep plays an important part in everyone’s health, no matter their age. There are factors, however, that influence sleep ability and quality based upon age. Here we share about sleep – with seniors in mind, and of course, how to get a good night’s sleep!
How Much Sleep Do Seniors Need?
For older adults, the amount of sleep needed is actually similar to that of younger adults, with an average length of seven to nine hours needed, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sleep patterns do differ for older adults however. Circadian rhythms – those 24 hour internal clocks everyone has – tend to shift with age. Per familydoctor.org, as people get older, common changes to sleep patterns include getting tired earlier at night, waking up earlier in morning, waking up in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back asleep, as well as having insomnia, where one finds it hard to fall or stay asleep.
Deeper into Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation reported that older people spend more time in lighter stages of sleep than they do in deep stages of sleep. American seniors also take a while longer than usual to fall asleep. In results of a study shared by the NIH, 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women over 65 take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Factors that may make sleep harder to come by could include medications (especially antidepressants, beta-blockers, and cardiovascular types) and physical conditions or discomfort. Melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle, also plays a role. When people age, their bodies produce less of it. Additional factors include snoring, which can worsen with age; sleep apnea; and other sleep disorders.
Approaching Sleep Issues
The good news is that lifestyle changes, improved sleep habits, certain medications, and medical devices can help. Consulting with a doctor about overall health is advised for someone struggling to sleep as there may be an underlying problem related to a health condition. If sleep apnea or a sleep disorder is suspected, it is important to let a medical professional know. Once addressed, overall quality of life could be positively affected.
Sleep Tips for Seniors
We advise individuals to follow the advice of their medical professionals or doctors and speak with them before making changes to diet and/or exercise. With that in mind, here are some general tips that may help with achieving a good night of sleep.
- Avoid watching electronic screens for a while before bed.
- Try to get some natural light exposure each day.
- Avoid heavy meals before bed.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for 3 hours before going to bed.
- Get exercise during the day, but not right before going to sleep.
- Aim to wake up and go to sleep on the same schedule each day.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day.
- Try to follow a routine when it’s bedtime so that your body knows it’s time to get ready to sleep.