Aging and Sleep

What keeps seniors up at night? Senior “sleep architecture” differs. Sleep patterns change as we age, often making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Despite these issues, our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood.

There are three stages of sleep that make up our sleep architecture:

Dreamless light sleep
Occasional active dreaming (REM)
Deep sleep

This cycle repeats throughout the night. It’s found that seniors spend more time in the light stages of sleep creating sleep fragments (waking up). Sleep disorders tend to manifest as we age because of this change. However, researchers suggest that physical and psychiatric illness, as well as the medication to treat these ailments, are mostly responsible for sleeplessness.

Another change occurs in our circadian rhythms that coordinates the timing of our body. This causes older people to get tired earlier in the night and wake up earlier in the morning while still getting 8 hours. Researchers are not sure why this change occurs. Regardless of the body’s natural sleep changes due to age, here are a few modifications you can make for a better night’s sleep.

How to improve your sleep

  • • Check if medications could be preventing sleep
  • • Talk therapy to release worries that disturb sleep
  • • Use the bed only for sleeping
  • • Positive attitudes towards sleep
  • • Practice relaxation of muscles and mind
  • • Falling asleep to peaceful music or sounds
  • • Not spending too much time physically inactive
  • • Avoid day napping
  • • Try sleep aiding teas before bed
  • • Try Melatonin, a natural sleep agent (check with doctor first)
  • • Get a sleep aid prescribed