For many older adults sleeping for 7-9 hours each night can seem unreachable. People have been led to believe that poor sleep is just a normal part of aging, but this isn’t the case. As you age, it is normal to experience changes in your sleeping patterns and habits but disturbed sleep and waking up feeling tired every day is not a normal part of aging. Your lack of sleep may be because you are suffering from a sleep disorder.
Health issues that are developed later in life can often be the cause of your sleeping issues. These include arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, indigestion, heart disease and lung diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and menopause and post menopause. According to Everyday Health “sleep problems may be caused by physical, emotional, or hormonal conditions — everything from asthma to depression to menopause.”
Some common sleep changes in older adults that can affect their sleep include:
- getting tired earlier in the evening and waking up early in the morning
- waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep
According to Sleep Health Foundation 4 in 10 older adults suffer from insomnia, making it the most common sleep complaint of adults over 60. We recommend trying to identify what could be causing your insomnia. In a lot of cases emotional issue like stress, anxiety and depression are factors. Your daytime habits, sleep routine, and physical health may also play a part.
As you age your body produces less growth hormone, meaning you’ll likely spend less time in stage 3 (deep sleep), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, than younger people. When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience broken sleep and wake up more frequently during the night. Melatonin is the natural hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Each stage is uniquely important in getting quality sleep. For example, deep sleep is the stage that we need to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. In each sleep cycle your brain waves, breathing, heart, and temperature will be different. Therefore it is important we go through each stage every night. Your ability to function and feel good while you’re awake depends on whether you’re getting enough of each type of sleep cycle. Research has found that older adults wake up throughout the night more often than any other age group and this can be one of the reasons why.
Other reasons why older adults are sleeping less include:
- The need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night
- Napping during the day
- Medications – many medications have side effects that can cause sleepiness
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of social engagement
- Poor sleep habits and sleep environment
Research has found that more than half of men and women over the age 65 suffer from at least one sleep problem. Sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health now as it was when you were younger and should be a priority through all stages of life.