How does aging affect our sleep?

All the elderly do is sleep!

Why does it seem like older people are always tired?

They go to bed early, they sleep in late, and they often take a nap. Maybe it’s because their bodies need more sleep? Maybe it’s because they have nothing better to do? Well, we’re here to help you understand why sleep habits change as people age.

One study found that in adults over 65, 13% of men and 36% of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep on a regular basis. There is also an overall decline in REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) and an increase sleep fragmentation, or waking during the night.

As people age, the body makes less of the chemicals and hormones that help us to sleep. Melatonin production decreases as we age, which can affect sleep one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The pattern of our sleep, or sleep architecture, changes as we age and can contribute to sleep problems. It can affect circadian rhythms, which coordinate the timing of bodily functions (including sleep).

Because one’s sleep architecture can change as we age, it can cause sleepiness earlier in the evening. Advanced sleep phase syndrome occurs when the sleep rhythm is shifted forward, or to earlier in the daytime. Seniors still need a typical 8 hours of sleep but they wake up earlier in the morning because they go to sleep earlier in the evening.

As people age, there are many factors that can affect sleep. There is an increased amount of medical problems associated with the older population. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is common in older people and can cause sleep problems. Side effects of menopause, such as hot flashes, changes in breathing and decreasing hormone levels can lead to restless nights for women.

Snoring can be associated to multiple medical issues in seniors. Hypertension is associated with snoring, as is being overweight. Snoring can also be caused by asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Many older people also take an increased amount of medications due to medical issues. The medications can have side effects that wreak havoc on the body. They can cause frequent urination, drowsiness, muscle weakness or diarrhea. All of these side effects can directly affect sleep in older adults.

… sleep happily ever after …