Do you need more sleep as you age?
It is a commonly held belief, even though it may not be expressed that older people nap during the day because they need to, believing that as the general body functions, stamina and strength are declining, intermittent periods of sleep are necessary to keep going.
It’s true that from the age of about 30 your levels of endurance and the effectiveness of your organs are in decline although the rate of that decline varies depending on how the body has been treated over the years, the measures currently employed to lessen that decline and whether or not you have a relatively clean bill of health.
Apart from the natural decrease in your physical abilities, if you are healthy with a good diet, balanced lifestyle, not reliant on too many medications and sleep well at night there is no reason why you should be tired during the day.
However studies have shown that as you age the pattern of sleep changes so you get less slow wave and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
There are 4 stages of sleep plus REM and simply put stages 1 and 2 are the restful stages of sleep, the light sleep that prepares us for the next stages plus REM which are the deeper more meaningful sleep stages where, it is believed, the major repair work gets done on your body and emotional self.
So it is thought that this lightening of sleep during bed time may lead to a bigger urge to nap during the day.
As you age there are continual changes in the composition of hormones so growth hormones which are actually produced during slow wave sleep, decreases, so there is a direct correlation. Cortisol levels rise with age which is associated with the reduction of REM sleep. Cortisol is released in the body as a response to stress. Cytokines which in responding to infections triggers inflammation also becomes elevated in later life and can cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
It’s not a given but there is a higher potential to develop a sleep disorder as you age. The most common sleep disorders in the elderly are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS). Being smitten with a sleep disorder in later life relates to the higher likelihood of developing one or more of the causes of that disorder. For instance weaker muscles and getting heavier could bring on something like sleep apnea. As you age you are more likely to go to bed earlier. This may become extreme which could lead to ASPS.
Getting up in the night
As you age unfortunately so does your bladder which lessens the ability to retain as much urine over longer periods of time. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional to diagnose and manage the problem and ask about pelvic floor exercises. Incontinence affects 10 percent of the US and UK population.
Many older people may be on a great slew of prescription drugs for any number of accumulated ailments any combination of which can cause sleep disruptions. If you think they might be affecting your quality of sleep speak to your doctor about the drug’s effects and about the time of day you can best take them.
So in summary these are some major changes taking place as you age that have negative effects on your quality of sleep.
1. Your sleep pattern changes (less slow wave and REM sleep)
2. Growth hormones decrease and cortisol and cytokines increases
3. Possible increase in the potential onset of certain sleep disorders
4. Your weakening bladder disrupts your sleep
5. Increase use of medications which can cause sleep disruptions
There are others but there is a growing number of sleeping techniques and natural remedies that tackle the problems associated with sleep disruptions for the elderly and the not so.