How Much Sleep Do Seniors Need?

Published In Health & Safety

Many think that older people need more sleep but it’s a misconceived idea. Generally all people need about the same amount of sleep — around 8 hours per night but according to to a Medline Plus article, less time is spent in deep, dreamless sleep, waking up more often during the night and earlier in the morning. Put simply, the quality of sleep is something seniors do not often get.

The article also states, “sleep in the elderly is less deep and choppier than the sleep in younger people.” A host of issues affect our sleep as we age and not for the better. Health issues, pain from arthritis, frequent urination can disrupt our sleep and leave us feeling tired even when we’ve just gotten up. Sleep apnea, acid reflux, depression and dementia can also cause sleep disruptions. Many of these issues can be helped by a visit to our doctors, but some we just have to learn to deal with.

What We Can Do to Sleep Better

Our sleep patterns often shift drastically in our older years. The timing of our sleep is important for getting good sleep. When we go to bed too early and then wake up too early our sleep suffers. The WebMD Sleep Center suggests going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning. Avoid going to bed “with the chickens” as my own parents do. Now in their 80’s, they often wake up numerous times each night because they went to bed too early.

A host of issues affect our sleep. Even a lack of sunlight can affect our sleep. Getting out each day and taking a good walk in the sunshine can improve our sleep patterns and the quality of our sleep. Avoiding caffeine after mid-afternoon can also help. MedlinePlus also strongly suggests that we don’t take naps and only use our beds for sleep and sexual activity. No falling asleep in bed with the television on!

Healthy Life – Healthy Sleep

Staying as healthy as possible and living a healthy lifestyle can improve everyone’s sleep. So many of the sleep issues revolve around how good we feel and if we’re suffering from a health issue. Healthy food, enough exercise and moderation of alcohol and caffeine can help all of us sleep better each night. When we get good quality sleep, we’ll feel better in the morning and improve the overall quality of our lives.

How Are Your Melatonin Levels?

Melatonin is a natural substance our bodies produce but production declines in many elderly people, according to a Lancet August 1995 article. An Israeli study on sleep in the elderly found that nearly 80 percent of older people could improve their sleep with a small supplement of melatonin. If you’re having sleep disruption you might ask your doctor to check your levels. Both the Medline Plus and WebMD article strongly suggest avoiding sleeping aids when at all possible. Also check out the 2022 NIH publication on the pros and cons of using melatonin in older adults.

This article was reviewed December, 2023 since it originally published in April, 2016.

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