The Sleep Needs Of Seniors

Do Seniors Sleep Needs Change as they age?

photo-blog-sleep-harvard-medical-school-book-sleepResearch indicates that seniors need the same amount of sleep as when they were younger.

Sleep needs change over a person’s lifetime, but older adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, older adults experience greater difficulty in falling asleep.

Older adults sleep less deeply and wake up more often during the night.  Their nighttime sleep schedules may change as they tend to get sleepier earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning.  These are some of the reasons older adults nap during the day.  

What is the circadian biological clock?

The circadian biologic clock is a 24-hour body rhythm that is affected by sunlight.  Our bodies secrete a hormone at night that is called melatonin.  When we sleep at night our bodies are in sync with our circadian biologic clock and we experience a healthier more restful sleep.  Many physicians instruct older adults to take melation, because the elderly produce less melatonin.

The other process that affects the amount of sleep is the sleep-wake process.  This process works by balancing the amount of sleep a person needs, based on the time spent awake.

The circadian biologic clock and sleep-wake process regulate our sleep by causing our bodies to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day.

What causes older adults to get less sleep?

Lack of sleep can affect seniors by causing them to be more at risk for falls, injuries, cognitive dysfunction, and behavior issues.

Some of the reasons older adults experience interrupted sleep is frequent urination, restless leg syndrome, certain medications, alcohol, arthritis pain, excessive napping during the day, caffeine, sleep apnea, other medical diseases and insomnia.


What are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep?

  • Set a bedtime routine and adhere to this routine even on the week-ends.  Try to go to sleep, and get up around the same time each
  • Get outside during the day to get enough sunlight, and daily physical exercise to help your body feel tired.
  • Minimize your nap times to around 30 to 60 minutes during the early afternoon.
  • Avoid caffeine and drinking fluids in the evening as they will cause you to have to get up during the night to urinate.
  • Use a natural sleep aid like melatonin before going to bed.
  • A small snack, and warm bath or shower in the evening assists in relaxing the body to aid sleep.
  • If there is a medical reason, sleep apnea or insomnia visit your physician to ensure you are doing all you can to relieve sleep problems. 
  • Poor sleep patterns are not a normal part of aging, and many healthy older adults report few or no sleep problems.  So if you are having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early consult with your physician.

Family Caregivers need sleep too!

If you are a family caregiver and your loved one is preventing you from getting a good sleep consider hiring a home care agency, like AA Care Services, to care for your loved one during the night.

This will give you the respite time you need to get a healthy sleep so you are able to care for your loved one during the day.

If your loved one has dementia and is frequently awake during the night, the agency caregiver will ensure that your loved one is supervised and safe. 

Want to find out more?

National Sleep Foundation
Aging and Sleep
Is Poor Sleep a Normal Part of Aging?

Mayo Clinic
How many hours of sleep are enough for good health?

Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.

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