Why is it harder to sleep as we get older?

As we get older, our sleep patterns change. It can take longer to get to sleep and become harder to stay asleep through the whole night. Our bodies produce less melatonin as we age, the hormone that induces sleep, and we tend to spend increasing time in the lighter stages of sleep and less time in deep sleep.

While we are asleep, our brains move through five different stages including periods of light sleep, deeper sleep and REM sleep. This sleep cycle occurs four to six times a night. More time spent in light sleep can result in repeated awakening during the night and a heightened awareness of feeling awake.

Do we need less sleep as we get older?
The amount of sleep we need remains the same throughout our adult lives, a regular 7 to 9 hours a night. As it can take longer to fall asleep as we get older though, we may need to spend more time in bed to get the required amount of sleep.

A good night’s sleep is essential for our health as this is when our body restores and repairs itself which helps to prevent disease; as well as performing memory consolidation and renewal,  improving our concentration and memory formation.

Sleep disturbances
It’s not just changing sleep patterns that can disturb our sleep as we get older, illness and medication can also prevent us from getting enough sleep. Common issues include discomfort or pain from a chronic illness, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and the need to go to the loo (Nocturia). Many medicines that we may be required to take as we get older also have the unfortunate side effect of keeping us awake at night.

Lack of sleep as we age can lead to depression, attention and memory problems, an increased chance of nighttime falls and sometimes more serious health problems.

How to sleep better as you age

There are things we can do to improve our sleep, from changing our sleep environment and having healthier daytime habits, to modifying prescribed medications and addressing any emotional problems.

See our article ‘How to get a better night’s sleep’ for more top tips.

Lightweight duvet benefits

A heavy duvet can hinder a good night’s sleep, particularly if you have restricted movement due to age or injury or you’ve recently had an operation. You will be much more comfortable with a lightweight duvet that doesn’t impede turning over in bed or weigh down on your limbs uncomfortably. Down-rich duvets are particularly lightweight and warm. The scooms Hungarian goose down duvet provides the ideal warmth, the right weight and just enough drape to contour to your body.

In conclusion ...

So, as we get older it’s important to be aware that we still need to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night but we may need to take extra steps to ensure that we do. Going to bed earlier, improving our sleep environment and ensuring that we pursue healthy daytime habits can all help to make it easier to get to sleep and to stay asleep for the whole night.

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