Sleep Solutions : How Sleep Changes With Age

Sleep Changes as We Age

Written by: Sue Sarko
The individual amount of sleep needed each night does not change with age, but the amount of sleep that people actually get does. Starting at about the age of 40, the amount of sleep that the average person gets decreases by about half an hour per decade. People over age 60 typically sleep an average of only 5 hours per night, but it’s the ability to sleep that diminishes, not the need. Older people tend to have a more difficult time maintaining sleep, but falling asleep does not seem to be a problem. A healthy sleep cycle consists of three phases. We progress from light sleep to deep sleep to rapid eye movement, (REM), when dreaming takes place. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night every 90 minutes, but in older people, the amount of deep and REM sleep drops dramatically and the amount of light, easily disturbed sleep increases. Add to this the fact that older people are also more likely to have health problems that interfere with their ability to sleep, and it’s easy to see why this can be a problem.All of that said, listed below are some simple things that can be done to counteract this phenomenon:

  • Avoid evening exercise. Try to get your work out in by 4 p.m. so that your system has time to settle down before bed.
  • Stay away from caffeine at least six hours before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. The effects may help you to fall asleep faster, but you’ll have a harder time staying asleep as the night goes on.
  • Try to finish drinking liquids at least one hour before bed.
  • Block out disturbances by closing curtains and wearing a sleep mask.
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
  • Consider using a white noise device.
  • Try to get outdoors during the midday. This will help to keep your internal clock on schedule.
  • Make sure that your sleeping surface supports your body in it’s proper anatomical position. You want a pillow and mattress or mattress overlay (quality foam mattress Topper) that mirrors your body’s natural curves.

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