4 Ways Aging Affects How We Sleep

Ah, to be a teenager again. How incredible were those lazy weekends when you would sleep until your body couldn’t sleep anymore — 10, 12, 14 hours if your parents didn’t wake you. Those weekends when your body was still growing and your brain was still forming. There was truly nothing like it.

A body’s relationship with sleep changes as it ages. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who can still bang out 12 hours of sleep at a moment’s notice. But for many of us, aging complicates one of life’s most important natural processes. Here are four ways aging affects how we sleep.

1. Aging affects how long we sleep

Although, as the National Sleep Foundation explains, there is no reason for older adults to sleep less as they get older, many do. The reasons for this are many: physical discomfort, trouble falling asleep, changing chemical processes within our bodies — ever notice you can’t sleep after drinking coffee like you used to? Make sure you’re making the most out of your sleep environment. According to scientists, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be the king or queen of shuteye even as you enter your golden years.

2. Aging affects how well we sleep

This is sort of related to number one. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Studies on the sleep habits of older Americans show an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), an overall decline in REM sleep, and an increase in sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night) with age.” We’ve already explored the trends in sleep latency and REM sleep, but what could explain increased sleep fragmentation? According to the American Family Physician, a number of maladies associated with aging are to blame for common sleep problems: sleep apnea, prostate diseases, and neurological disorders. And of course, there are the physical symptoms….

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3. Aging affects how restless we are when we sleep

…That affect our sleep. According to AFP, “Primary sleep disorders are more common in the elderly than in younger persons. Restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder can disrupt sleep and may respond to low doses of antiparkinsonian agents as well as other drugs.” Watch out for how medications might affect your sleep physically.

4. Aging affects what we do during the day

Aging Care tells us that as we age, we sleep more during the day. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting your nap on. You’ve earned it! But what you gain during the day you might lose as you try to fall asleep. Be careful not to develop destructive day-sleeping habits, or else you could be staring up at the ceiling night after night.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, check out this helpful video series:
Sleep Well Tips Part One
Sleep Well Tips Part Two
Sleep Well Tips Part Three

Sweet dreams!

Last updated: 10.18.2017

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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