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Changes in Sleeping with Age

shutterstock_194440022Sleep is essential to good health and wellbeing. For many people, however, sleep can be elusive. Insomnia – trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep – is very common, particularly among older adults. There is a popular misconception that people require less sleep as they age. However, sleep needs remain fairly constant throughout our adult lives: seniors require just as much sleep as younger people. It can be frustrating and confusing for people who were once sound sleepers to suddenly find themselves struggling with insomnia. However, sleep disturbances are a very normal part of aging.

For older adults struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it can be reassuring to recognize that difficulty sleeping is a perfectly natural part of the aging process. Conditions that are common among seniors, such as Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, can all contribute to sleep problems. Additionally, our bodies’ internal clock – also known as the circadian rhythm – changes as we age. Although this phenomenon is not well understood, researchers speculate that it could be related to light exposure. Older adults tend to get tired earlier in the evening, as well as waking earlier in the morning, than they used to. This can be frustrating for someone who is used to keeping certain hours. As well as changes in circadian rhythm and physical problems that may interrupt sleep “sleep architecture” – the amount of time we spend in different stages of sleep – is altered with age. Older people tend to spend less time in deep sleep, and more time in light sleep, than younger adults. 

For older adults struggling with sleep problems, it can be helpful to remember that insomnia, waking during the night, and changes in the cycles of alertness and sleepiness are a normal part of aging. Although these changes may provoke worry, it’s possible to make a few adjustments and changes to facilitate better sleep and improve quality of life.

Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care for general assistance. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.

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