Impact of ageing on sleep

We don’t only gain experience as we get older. Our bodies also undergo drastic physical changes, and our sleep patterns don’t escape unscathed.1 2 3 With age, it’s common to struggle to fall asleep.2 Remember when you were a teenager, and you could sleep until midday after a long night out? Unfortunately, this becomes less likely as you age.4 There is a myth that adults sleep more with age as we get older, but that’s not true.4 Research has shown that we need the same amount of sleep throughout our adult lives.3 4 Changes to our sleep architecture come into play as we age, and this is where sleep troubles occur.3

Many older people struggle to fall asleep or wake up repeatedly during the night.5 While adults tend to sleep 7-8 hours per day, older adults tend to sleep roughly 6-7 hours per day but take more frequent naps.6 Several different factors can play a part in this, including medications used, physical illness, and changes to the circadian rhythms that regulate our internal clocks.3

Commonly, older people will be more tired in the early evening and wake up early the next day.7 This pattern is referred to as “advanced sleep phase syndrome”.7 The process means that your sleep rhythm shifts back in time, effectively meaning you’ll go to bed earlier and wake up earlier as well.7

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