If you’re only getting a few hours a night, you’re not getting enough.
When babies are born, they don’t do much aside from eating, crying and sleeping. Of course this makes sense—babies need about 16 hours of sleep each day! Naturally, we don’t all get to sleep for 16 hours every day throughout our lives. Nor do we need to. While adolescents need about 9 hours, adults and seniors need at least 7 hours each night. You may also notice that you naturally start going to bed and waking up earlier.
It’s more common for seniors to sleep lightly and for shorter periods of time. They also typically spend less time in REM sleep, which is when you usually experience dreaming. This may be a normal part of aging. It can also be caused by other health problems. For some, these disruptions to the sleep cycle may cause insomnia. Here are some of the other factors that can cause sleep disturbances.
Underlying health conditions
As we get older, it’s more common to experience health issues. Many common, age-related health issues can also cause sleep disruption in seniors. Anything from heart and lung conditions to mood disorders to medication can cause someone to wake up frequently throughout the night or have problems falling asleep. If you or a loved one are having trouble sleeping, you may want to talk to your doctor. They may be able to help you with any untreated or underlying health issues.
Snoring or other breathing disorders
There are many things that may cause snoring. Some, like obstructive sleep apnea, are a bigger health issue than others. Other causes include things like alcohol consumption, allergies, the common cold, weight, or merely the way your anatomy is. Snoring often occurs when your throat relaxes and narrows your airways.
Fortunately there are a range of treatments for snoring. Some are simple, like this smart device that sends gentle pulses when it detects snoring, letting you know when to change positions. Other devices are more complex, and must be prescribed by a doctor.
Insomnia is very common affecting 23-24% of all older adults. People who experience it have issues falling asleep or staying asleep once they’ve gone to bed. This also decreases daytime function and can lead to other health problems. If you experience insomnia, try to understand if there is a root cause or habit that is keeping you up at night. Otherwise, look to your doctor for help. Over-the-counter sleep aids are not a long-term solution, because these can increase your risk of other health problems.