Do we need less sleep as we get older?
As we age we see changes in our physical appearance and our sleep patterns. Many older people find it more difficult to fall asleep and often wake in the early hours, finding it difficult to return to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation firmly believes that our need for sleep doesn’t lessen as we get older.
Research from the National Sleep Foundation has shown that we need the same amount of sleep throughout our adult lives. The Foundation’s studies have demonstrated that older people have more periods of the lighter stage of sleep than periods of deep sleep. This could explain why many older people say they don’t feel their sleep has been restorative and they feel tired during the day, which leads to the afternoon nap.
Sleep disorders increase with age. Research has shown that many of the sleep disorders among our aging population are in fact due to the medication used to treat various physical and psychiatric issues.
Our bodily functions are directed by circadian rhythms. It’s a fact that younger people enjoy going to bed late and getter up late. As we age, we tend to feel tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier, however, we still need our average 7 to 9 hours sleep a night according to the experts.
Research undertaken by the University of Michigan into circadian rhythms has shown that older people have a narrower space of time where they can get to sleep and remain asleep. It’s therefore important that we recognise our optimal ‘sleep time’, so we have our required 7- 9 hours a night, which we need no matter how old we are.