If you’re aging, you may be getting less sleep. It becomes harder to fall asleep, and you might be waking up more often during the night. In fact, studies indicate that 13% of men and 36% of women over age 65 take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
There are many causes for difficulty sleeping as you age. Here are some of the most common:
Fewer hormones: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Because our bodies slow down hormone production as we age, we have less melatonin as well. That may affect your ability to fall asleep.
Increased chance of neurological conditions: Illnesses such as Parkinson’s or stroke affect the part of the brain that controls sleep. This can disrupt your ability to sleep well
Other illnesses or conditions: Arthritis or other conditions can cause chronic pain that interferes with your ability to sleep. You may also develop sensitivities to noise and other environmental factors that never used to bother you. Depression or anxiety are also more common as you age, and that can affect your sleep. Certain medications can also prevent quality sleep.
Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea, which causes blockages in the air passages during sleep, is more common among older people. Insomnia and frequent urination during the night are also more prevalent.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is very important for all ages. Babies, children, and teens need enough sleep to grow and develop properly. Adults need it to keep their immune systems strong and to have energy.
Older adults need sufficient sleep even more. Seniors who have less sleep are more prone to accidents and falls. Too little sleep may also cause weight gain and increase your chances of developing depression. Other undesirable outcomes of less sleep are: decreased cognitive function, hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and increased stress hormone levels.
As you can see, it’s just as important to get enough sleep as it was when you were younger.
Seniors may need slightly less sleep than younger adults
The recommended amount of sleep per night for healthy adults is 7-9 hours. Some studies suggest that seniors don’t need as much—about 7.5 hours are adequate. It’s not much of a difference, though. Most adults don’t get 9 hours of sleep every night, and if you’re used to sleeping the bare minimum of 7 hours a night, you should not decrease your sleep as you age.
If you find you are having trouble sleeping, speak with your doctor to find a solution.