How Sleep Needs Change with Age

Sleep is important at every stage of life. These tips will help you get the sleep you need as you get older.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

At each stage of life, people sleep for different durations. Newborns sleep on and off all day. Kids are up at dawn and on the go until sundown. Teens sleep late and stay up even later. Most adults do well with between seven and nine hours a night. Later in adulthood, sleep needs change again: Early waking and difficulty sleeping deeply frequently prevent older people from reaching a full nine hours. What’s more, many people find they simply need less shut-eye later in life. Are you getting enough? These smart tips can help you find out.

Wake Without an Alarm
As people approach retirement age, they may find that the seven to nine hours of sleep they’ve been getting each night is more than their body needs. After age 65, seven or eight hours a night is usually sufficient. To find your optimal amount of sleep, try to wake up each morning for several days in a row without an alarm clock. (You might attempt this on your next vacation.) Waking up on your own schedule helps you learn how much sleep your body needs to feel energized and refreshed each day.

Monitor Your Meds
Certain medications can interfere with or alter your sleep habits. If you recently started taking a new prescription and find your sleep routine is changing, talk with your doctor. A physician may be able to switch you to a similar medication that has fewer sleep-related side effects.

Limit the Naps
Sleep can be affected by an increase in daily napping. Many people of retirement age who wake up earlier than planned or sleep less soundly than they want may be tempted to nap during the afternoon. While taking a nap seems logical, sleeping too much during the day can negatively impact your ability to sleep at night. If you do nap, keep it to 30 minutes or less.

Exercise Regularly
Of course, people over 65 may not be able to work out at the same intensity as when they were younger, but consistent, moderate exercise still plays an important role in encouraging healthy sleep habits. Simple stretching or brisk walking—even just 10 minutes a day—can help trigger a calm feeling at night that will help you sleep better.