As we age, our bodies go through changes, including the way we sleep. However, the importance of getting enough quality sleep remains the same.
Sleep is what helps our bodies recover from the day before and reset for the day ahead. Getting enough sleep is one thing, but that sleep quality is equally as important to promoting optimal health and wellness.
Learning how your body is changing the way you sleep and adjusting your sleeping habits accordingly can help you enhance your quality of sleep. As a senior living community serving Cobb County, Georgia, Provident Village at Creekside knows just how important sleep is to the body. This is why we are sharing how our sleep patterns change as we age and offering tips for improving sleep.
How Our Sleep Patterns Change with Age
The Inner Circadian Rhythm
We each have an inner circadian rhythm, which is essentially a fancy way of saying that our bodies have an internal clock. This clock signals us that it is time to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning.
As we age, our inner circadian rhythm shifts forward in time. According to the Sleep Foundation, “starting at age 60 to 65, circadian rhythms get earlier…the changes are gradual, with circadian rhythm shifting by approximately half an hour every decade beginning in middle age.” This means that older adults tend to go to bed earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
Light Versus Deep Sleep
Many older adults feel like they are lighter sleepers. This is due to the time spent each night in the different stages of sleep. “Older adults spend more time in the earlier, lighter stages of sleep and less time in the later, deeper stages (Sleep Foundation).”
Additionally, aging individuals wake up more frequently throughout the night and are more aware of these disturbances. We all wake up several times during the night, but these sleep disturbances are often so short that we do not realize that they are happening or remember them in the morning. However, older adults experience more prominent wake-up disturbances, leading to less sleep at night and feeling the need to nap during the day.
Sensitivity to Sleep Environment
Because more time is spent each night in the lighter stages of sleep, older adults are more sensitive to their sleeping environment. Changes in temperature, lighting, or noises can easily cause individuals to wake up throughout the night and have a more difficult time falling back asleep.
Tips for Improving Sleep
Establish an Evening Routine
Creating and sticking to an evening routine can help your brain learn when it is time to go to sleep and when it is time to wake up. Experiment to find what works for you. Whether you spend time reading each night, follow a specific skincare routine, or have another way to help you relax, make sure that you are going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep-Only Zone
If you only sleep when you are in your bedroom, this sends signals to your brain that it is time to sleep whenever you get into bed. Make sure to keep your bedroom at a cool temperature, power screens off, and make the room dark.
If you go to bed and find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, get out of bed and do something to help you feel sleepy. Only return to your bedroom when you feel ready to go to sleep.
Be Mindful of Your Medications
Certain medications can impact your quality of sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about what medications you are taking that could be impacting your sleep and work with them to make any necessary changes. Do not alter your medications without first consulting your doctor.
Quality sleep is necessary at any stage of life. It’s important to be aware of changes that occur as we age to continue getting the right amount of nutrition, exercise, and quality sleep.