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Debunking Sleep Myths: Do You Need Less Sleep As You Age?

You may be surprised by how many hours of shut-eye older adults should be getting.

It’s a fact of life: The joys of grandchildren and retirement come with some less-welcome events. Along with changes to vision, hearing, and hairline, older adults may also notice a shift in sleeping patterns. Falling and staying asleep can be more difficult, and even people who once loved to spend mornings in bed may find that they wake up much earlier than they used to.

Despite the shift in sleep schedules, however, people’s total sleep needs don’t change much as they get older. The recommended amount for those ages 65 and up is seven to eight hours a night while younger adults are advised to get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. The challenge is in syncing these requirements up with the reality of older people’s lives.

Roadblocks to Sweet Dreams
Unfortunately, most older Americans fall short of the sleep recommendations, in part because physical issues disrupt quality shut-eye as people age. More than half of adults over the age of 65 complain of having at least one sleep-related condition, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Health problems such as heart failure, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s can also steal sleep from older adults, and certain medications may lead to restless nights. Even the change in routine that comes with retirement can throw off someone’s sleep schedule.

Fallout From Limited Sleep
Not getting enough sleep won’t just leave older adults feeling groggy. The lack of rest can lead to confusion, coordination difficulties, and additional mental and physical challenges that increases the risk of falls and other dangerous accidents.

A Sleep Improvement Plan
It’s important to practice healthy sleep habits at any age—and especially during the golden years. This includes avoiding alcohol in the evening, aiming to go to bed and wake up at the same time daily, and winding down before bed with a warm bath, herbal tea, or other relaxing activities.

If you make these changes and still aren’t getting enough sleep, or if you find that your exhaustion interferes with daily activities, talk with your doctor. Together, you can work to get to the root of your sleep issues so that you enjoy restful slumber well into the later years of life.