How Much Sleep do Seniors Need?

I recently noticed how people from different ages have special sleep needs concerning to how much time daily sleep they require. We happen to have a little baby (she turned 11 months) who is constantly changing her sleep pattern: she changed from waking up every hour to now sleep the whole night, and she also changed her need for naps, having just two quick ones currently. We’ve been also spending a lot of time with my mom (a very active senior of almost 80 year old), who has been constantly tired due to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Thus, it’s safe to say, as we age, our sleep amount needs change.

How much sleep do seniors need? Seniors (65 or plus) sleep range is 7 to 8 hours. In fact, most adults need 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night to feel rested and alert and this is especially true for people age 65 or older. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most of seniors that sleep usually 5 to 7 hours per night.

How Much Sleep do You Need? And How Much Sleep do Seniors Need?

As I’ve been observing with my mom, as we grow old, we may have changes in your sleep patterns. Surely, the amount of sleep we need varies on many factors, but age is a very relevant one.

A senior clinical physiologist in neurophysiology and sleep at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, Ana Noia, told The Independent that while how much sleep someone needs can vary according to each person, as a standard rule how much sleep someone needs will change with age. Additionally, I took the study made by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that also have its results of amount sleep need for each age and compile into one table:

AgeAmount of sleep neededSource
Newborn16 to 18 hoursAna Noia
Up to 3 months of age14 to 17 hoursCDC
From 4 to 12 months12 to 16 hoursCDC
From 1 to 2 years11 to 14 hoursCDC/Ana Noia
From 3 to 5 years10 to 13 hoursCDC/Ana Noia
From 6 to 12 years9 to 12 hoursCDC
From 13 to 18 years8 to 10 hoursCDC
From the 20 years and up7 to 9 hoursAna Noia
Older than 65 years7 to 8 hoursAna Noia

Furthermore, according to Noia, two age groups are usually sleep deprived: teenagers and seniors. Teenagers definitely don’t sleep enough and should be getting eight to 10 hours. Also, seniors, although the recommendation is that they should be sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night, they actually sleep around 5 to 7 hours.

Reasons Why Seniors are so Sleep Deprived

So, as said before, according to an article from Medical News Today, seniors often get less sleep than they need. One reason for seniors to be so sleep deprived is that they often have more trouble falling asleep. And this issue appears to affect more women than men over 65, since 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, according to a study mentioned by the same article.

Additionally, older people often sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night. There are many possible explanations for this change. Seniors usually produce and secrete less melatonin, the hormone that stimulates sleep. They may also be more sensitive to noise and other changes in their sleep environment. Additionally, seniors may also have other medical and psychiatric problems that can affect their sleep routine.

This ends up affecting seniors’ entire routine. Because of this change on their night time sleep, seniors tend to be more tired during the day and have more naps and also, to get sleepier earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning.

Why the Amount of Sleep We Need Varies with Our Age?

According to Noia, why we need to rest our eyes for different amounts of time depending on our age comes down to the complex changes in how the brain develops, our circadian rhythm, environmental factors, work and social needs and demands. Furthermore, “The most dramatic change occurs in the elderly. Deep sleep, for example, can almost disappear,” Noia says.

Why is Sleep so Important for Seniors?

Whatever a person’s age, sleep is key for good health and wellbeing. Therefore, specially for seniors, sleep well is extremely important because it allows your body to repair itself and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease. Besides, it helps to improve concentration and prevent memory loss.

Additionally, if seniors are sleeping five to six hours per night, there is a higher risk of hypertension or developing coronary disease. Moreover, the effects of poor sleep have also been linked to obesity, depression, poor memory, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

What are the Common Sleep Changes in Seniors?

The common sleep changes in seniors are the ones below:

  • Getting tired earlier in the evening;
  • Waking up early in the morning;
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep;
  • Having insomnia, which is a condition that makes it hard to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.

Related Questions

What are the Most Common Causes of Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders in Seniors?

  • Pain or medical conditions: Health conditions (such as a frequent need to urinate, pain, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis or other conditions that cause physical pain).
  • Medications intake: The combination of drugs that seniors often take, as well as their side effects, can take a toll on your sleep routine.
  • Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders: insomnia is one of the symptoms.
  • Poor sleep habits and sleep environment: Irregular sleep routine and an inadequate sleep environment (such as a bedroom that doesn’t suit your needs). Environment being noisy and not dark enough, or an uncomfortable mattress.
  • Unhealthy habits: Having unhealthy habits (such as being overweight, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and an unbalanced diet). If you have unhealthy habits, your sleep will surely be compromised by it.
  • Lack of exercise: Not exercising enough. If you don’t do at least 30min of physical activity on a daily basis, either you have problems to fall asleep, either you feel sleepy all the time.
  • (For women only) Menopause and post menopause: Many women find that hot flashes and night sweats, both symptoms of menopause and post menopause, can interrupt their sleep.

What are the Best Treatments for Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders?

So, simple treatments would be weight reduction, quit smoking, limit alcohol, healthy diet, reduction of beverage and food intake at night, avoid coffee after 3p.m., maintain a good sleep routine – like relaxation training, leaving stress out of the bedroom, using the bed just for sleep, regular sleep schedule – and daily aerobic exercise for about 30 minutes a day. But often these basic treatments are not enough.

  • Maintain healthy habits: Loose weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol and also try to have a healthier diet.
  • Keep a sleep routine: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Thus, maintain a regular schedule and try to use the bedroom only on bedtime.
  • Exercise: Do exercises! Daily physical activity helps people sleep better. But note that it’s important to avoid vigorous activity for several hours before bedtime.
  • Sleep environment: Create a sleep environment that is dark, quiet, safe and comfortable.
  • Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.: Note that the effect of caffeine can last much longer than 5 hours.
  • Limit naps: If you need them, make them shorter. But set a timer when you go for a rest during the day.
  • No eat or drink too much right before bedtime: Eat/Drink three hours or more before going to bed.

* Please note that none of the advice we give on this post is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help, so if you feel that your sleep problems are seriously affecting your health, please go check with your doctor.

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