Do Seniors Need Less Sleep?
You may have heard somewhere along the way that seniors need less sleep as they get older. Maybe they train their bodies to get by on less. Maybe they’re less active and therefore don’t need as much rest. But there is definitely a school of thought that seniors can get by on less shut-eye.
But it’s simply not true.
“It is a myth that older adults need less sleep,” says William Zirker, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
However, Zirker says there is plenty of evidence that seniors are getting less sleep, even if that’s having a negative impact on their health. “Insomnia is very common in older adults; in one study only 20 percent of adults 65 and over reported no problems with sleep,” he says.
That means four out of five seniors are struggling to get enough sleep. Researchers believe that one issue is decreasing hormone production as we age – specifically, our bodies produce less melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Zirker says that with less melatonin, older adults tend to get sleepy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the day. They can also have a hard time falling asleep at night.
Zirker says another hormonal shift is the decrease of growth hormone in our aging bodies. “Growth hormone is what makes children sleep so deeply. As we age, our bodies secrete less of this hormone and deep sleep becomes more difficult,” he says.
Not getting enough sleep can impact a senior’s overall health and wellness, and even impair cognitive functioning. Zirker offers a laundry list of sleep-related complaints, including:
And a lack of sleep doesn’t just lead to feeling tired. Sleep deficiency – and this is less than seven-to-eight hours a night – can cause a multitude of other health issues. It’s seen as a contributing factor in heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke, and can also lead to poor eating habits and other issues.
Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you have to accept feeling fatigued and run down. Zirker says that learning and practicing good sleep hygiene can help improve your sleep.
Your health may depend on it, no matter how old you are.
Crozer-Keystone offers a multidisciplinary approach to the identification and treatment of all types of sleep disorders. CKHS also offers skilled care for pediatric sleep disorders through the Crozer-Keystone Pediatric Sleep Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. To make an appointment, visit our website or call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703).