As we get older, our sleep needs can change. It is understood that children and adolescents need more sleep than adults, but surprisingly, older adults may also need to get more sleep. It is recommended that seniors get at least seven hours of sleep, but some need up to nine hours per night.
Unfortunately, many seniors struggle to get the sleep they need. Sleep disturbances can increase with age. Older adults often find it difficult to fall asleep, and they sleep less deeply. They also tend to wake up more during the night. Older adults also often find that they get sleepier earlier in the evening and if they do not shift their bedtime earlier, they can lose needed sleep time.
Why do seniors have these common sleep problems? As you age, your body produces less melatonin, the sleep hormone. You can also become more sensitive to environmental disturbances— temperature, sounds, and light. Finally, seniors have more medical problems, which can lead to unsettled sleep patterns. Poor sleep can lead to depression, decreased attention spans, memory problems, increased risk of falls, and greater use of overthe- counter sleep aids. This can all lead to a lower quality of life.
Many seniors depend on daytime naps to counteract the problems associated with diminished night sleeping. There are some treatments that can help. Your doctor can recommend ways to safely get the sleep you need. You should also make good nutrition and daily exercise a part of your life. These contribute to your general well-being, which promotes good sleep habits as well.