As we age, it becomes easier to notice the different changes our bodies are going through. Aside from the many physical changes, our sleeping patterns also become different as we grow older.
For instance, older people become sleepier much faster, they wake up earlier, and thus don’t enjoy as much deep sleep as they used to.
These changes in sleep patterns are generally considered as part of the aging process. But the truth is they are not. Since sleep is just as vital to older people as it is to all of us, it is important to know how to deal with sleep problems related to old age.
How Important Is Sleep for Older People?
Regardless of your age, having good quality and enough hours of sleep in crucial to your emotional and physical health.
For the elderly, long and good quality sleep helps to improve memory formation and the ability to concentrate.
In addition, sleep allows the body to deal with all the cell damages that may have occurred to the body during the day.
By having enough sleep also, their immune system is also refreshed and can thus effectively perform its job of preventing diseases.
For most physicians, the quality and quantity of sleep is a good barometer of an individual’s health.
According to studies also, older people who cannot get some good sleep are the ones who tend to suffer from memory and attention problems, depression, as well as chronic daytime sleepiness.
There are some serious health problems that can be caused by insufficient sleep, such as breast cancer among women, weight problems, diabetes and various cardiovascular illnesses.
How Much Sleep Do Older People Need?
Although the required hours of sleep may vary from one person to another, healthy adults generally need an average of 8 hours of sleep to be fully functional.
In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, it was revealed that older people require 1.5 hours less sleep compared to younger people.
This means that they need around 7.5 hours of sleep every night. It was also indicated in the study that older people tend to sleep way less even when they have the opportunity to sleep more. This is because of the various age-related changes in their ability to fall and remain asleep.
The results of the said study are not conclusive, indeed. But it remains important for an older person to pay attention to how he or she feels the following day instead of how long they actually sleep.
It should be noted that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity of sleep an older person gets.
There are some seniors who are misled by the belief that the sleeping problems they are experiencing are due to the fact that they are trying to sleep for almost 9 hours every night.
What’s worse is that they eventually decide that they will be able to sleep more by taking some medications.
Be Aware of How Sleep Changes with Age
There are certain changes in sleeping patterns that are naturally caused by aging.
As you age, your body naturally secretes less amounts of growth hormone, which could then cause your inability to sleep deeply.
Also, less melatonin causes more frequent disruptions in sleep, such as being awaken in the middle of the night or early in the morning.
The biological clock of an older person is also different from that of a younger adult. This is why seniors feel that they prefer to go to sleep early at night and wake up early in the morning as well.
The solution to these changes in sleeping patterns is to try to restore the original biological rhythm of your body.
While you may not be as physically active as you were when you were younger, it is important that you keep yourself and your mind busy throughout the day so that your will still feel the need to rest at a proper time at night.
Identify the Sleep Problems You’re Going Through
Insomnia is among the most common sleep problems even in older people. It is said that the main causes of this sleep disorder are depression, anxiety and stress.
But aside from them, an older person’s daytime activities and sleep environment can also cause this disorder.
In order to find out what exactly is causing your insomnia, you can ask yourself these questions.
Once you found out what the root cause is, it will be much easier for you to figure out what the proper treatment for your insomnia is:
- Are you always stressed out?
- Are you going through a time of depression? Do you feel hopeless?
- Are you always anxious and worried about the things around you?
- Have you been through a very traumatic situation recently?
- What medications are you taking? Do they affect the way you sleep?