As we age, the vast majority of us find it increasingly difficult to get a sound night’s sleep. By the time our 20s have reached an end, so too have the nights of deep and undisturbed dozing – by our 50s, the average person gets half as much deep sleep as they did when they were younger.
Although it can be rather beneficial, waking up early every so often and getting a headstart on the day ahead, you’ll really begin to feel the impact of poor sleep quality if you fail to get a quality night’s sleep the majority of the time. The notion that older individuals need less sleep than the spritely youngsters simply isn’t true, so you need to make sure you’re doing everything possible to get a good night’s sleep.
In our article below to sleeping better as you get older, you’ll find a wealth of information on why it’s harder to sleep as you age, the benefits of a quality night’s sleep, and top tips for making sure you’re optimising those hours of slumber.
Why does sleep get harder as you get older?
The reason for why sleep is harder to achieve amongst older adults doesn’t boil down to one specific answer. There are a variety of factors that can cause older individuals to sleep poorly, particularly the factors listed below.
- The neurological receptors within our brains that pick on signals to let us know we are tired tend to worsen over the years, which can make it more difficult for the brain to shut off.
- Growth hormone levels are reduced over time, which can reduce the amount of deep sleep a person achieves.
- Melatonin levels reduce as we age, one of the causes of waking up throughout the night.
- Research has discovered the around half of adults aged 60 and over suffer from insomnia.
- Advanced Sleep Phase disorder – the typical sleep-wake cycle that older adults adopt. As we get older, we begin to go to sleep earlier and wake earlier which can wreak havoc on the individual’s body clock.
- Health conditions and changes including menopause, heart disease, chronic pain and gastroesophageal reflux disease, can all lead in a night of restlessness.
- Sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring and sleep apnea, have a large influence on how well a person sleeps. These sleep disorders are much more common amongst older individuals.
- Emotional situations in life, such as when children leave the family home, when close friends or relatives die, or when finances are tough, can all lead an older adult struggling to sleep.
- Changes to your sleeping environment can play a huge part in disturbing sleep, particularly if you have grown used to a particular environment over many years.
Why is the right amount of sleep important as we age?
Sleep is an essential part of our daily lives and while many believe it is much more important for younger individuals, it is just as important for older adults.
Firstly, an undisturbed sleep can help to improve memory and concentration, which can often deteriorate as we get older. You’ll also find that you’re less likely to suffer from tiredness during the day and are less prone to falls and injuries with a good amount of quality sleep.
That’s not all. In fact, when we sleep, our bodies take this time to repair and rejuvenate, as well as giving your immune system that all important boost. In turn, getting the right amount of quality sleep can help to reduce the chances of developing severe health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
How much sleep does an older adult need?
Many believe that older adults don’t need as much sleep as younger individuals, and that the standard 8 hours of sleep doesn’t apply, but it does. In fact, it’s recommended that older adults aim for between 7.5 and 9 hours sleep every night, to live a comfortable and satisfying lifestyle without any hiccups during the day.
Of course, the quality of those hours of sleep is vital as well. Research suggests that a quality night’s sleep will see an individual pass through the 3 stages of the sleep cycle multiple times throughout the night. So if you find yourself sleeping lightly, tossing and turning throughout the night, chances are your sleep isn’t of the best quality.
The recommendations are just guidelines and at the end of the day, everyone is bound to sleep differently to one another. It’s important to aim to meet these recommendations, but at the same time, it’s important to know what works best for you, in order to achieve as good a night’s sleep as possible.
Tips to get a better night’s sleep
If you’re in desperate need of a sound night’s sleep, read our top tips for advice and guidance on how to catch those much-needed Zs.
- Try to develop a nighttime routine that’s easy to stick to. This starts with going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, but can extend to how you prepare yourself for bed every night and getting into a habit of doing the same thing every night before you sleep, such as reading or listening to music, for example.
- Block out as much light and sound as possible in your sleeping environment. As older adults are more easily disrupted by these environmental factors, limiting them will help to improve your sleeping quality.
- Establish your bedroom as a place to sleep and nothing else. That means removing any distractions, such as TVs, to train your mind and body into knowing it’s time to sleep when you head to your room for the night.
- If you need to take a nap during the day, make sure it’s more than 3 hours before your bedtime, to reduce the likelihood of you feeling too alert to sleep when bedtime comes around.
- Try to fit some daily exercise into your routine, at least half an hour every day. Exercise can improve sleep quality, so long as it isn’t carried out less than 3 hours before your bedtime.
- Develop a diet that’s beneficial for sleep – Whether that means eradicating the likes of caffeine and alcohol or perhaps just limiting them to certain times, your diet can play a major role in how well you sleep. Avoid large meals during the run up to bedtime and limit the amount of liquids you consume to prevent frequent bathroom visits throughout the nice.
- Make sure you’re sleeping in a bed that’s well suited to your body and its needs. A bed or mattress that isn’t right for you can severely affect how well you sleep.
Sleep plays a crucial part of any individuals’ life, particularly as we grow older and become more susceptible to damaging lifestyle changes. By understanding the importance of sleep in the later stages of life and knowing how to sleep better as you get older, you’ll be well on your way to developing a routine that’s directed toward getting plenty of quality sleep every night.
If you’re constantly struggling to get a good night’s sleep, a new bed might be the perfect solution. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our sleep specialists, who will be able to help by recommending the right bed for you and your needs.