For the first time last year, older adults got their very own personalized sleep recommendations. The National Sleep Foundation concluded, after reviewing the scientific research on sleep duration, that adults 65 and up should aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, compared to adults 26 to 64, who should sleep between 7 and 9. The distinction might not seem like a huge deal at first, but it’s a nod to what many older adults inherently know to be true: Sleep actually does change with age. ( Frets about your memory? Check out these natural solutions for an age-proof brain !)
“Our sleep changes throughout the lifespan, ” told Natalie D. Dautovich, PhD, the NSF’s environmental scholar and an deputy psychology prof at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Some of the most dramatic changes, she told, actually occur in our 20 s, but as we reach older adulthood some topics tend to arise. Many 50+ sleepers find it’s easier to become awakened during the course of its night, which is reflected in a little shorter sleep duration over all, Dautovich told.
It’s not exactly a welcome change: The NSF observed 71 percent of 55- to 64 -year-olds report some sleep problem, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up still tired, or snoring.
Dautovich exhorts anyone dealing with these issues to bringing them up a medical professional. Depending on your symptomsmaybe you’re overly sleepy during the day or you’re irritable, unfocused, and achymedication, lifestyle changes, or even cognitive therapy can help.
Here are a few of the unique sleep situations facing you as you age.
Your bedtime and your wake-up day shift earlier .
Remember how all you wanted to do when you were 19 was stay up late and doze until noon? You weren’t simply exercising your laziest teen muscles; our natural internal clocks, technically called our circadian rhythms, are delayed until our 20 s, meaning we truly don’t get tired until later at night and don’t feel alert until later in the morning, Dautovich explained. After we grow out of this phase, though, our circadian rhythms maintain advancing, and later in life we tend to become sleepy more quickly and feel our most alert earlier in the morning, too. ( Fake a good nights sleep with these 7 essential eye-makeup tips-off for women over 40. ) You wake up more during the course of its night .
An odd thing starts to happen in our brains as we age, says board-certified sleep expert and sleep physician, Michael J. Breus, PhD.
“The amplitude of our brain waves changes, ” he said.
To be classified as deep, restful, restorative sleep, brain waves have to reach a certain height, and after age 50 or so, the spikes simply don’t get as high, he says. That lighter sleep is a heck of a lot easier to disturb, meaning you become a lot easier to wake up. Whether it’s your bed partner’s snoring, the usual creaky house noises, or a little indigestion, you may find you’re no longer able to sleep right through disorders. Those arousals in turn mean you’re getting worse sleep, Breus said.
Of course, it’s only natural to figure you are able to make up for that with an afternoon nap. A word of caution, though: While you’re undoubtedly tired during the day if you’ve tossed and turned all night, napping can sometimes do more damage than good.
“Unfortunately, that can disrupt our natural rhythm and result in poorer sleep the following night, ” Dautovich said.
You gotta run .
Some 53 percent of adults ages 55 to 84 get up to pee every night or almost every night, according to the NSF. Certainly, some of us get a more frequent recommend to alleviate ourselves as we age, maybe because our nerves don’t function as well. But hitting the head may also be related to that lighter sleep we get, she told. “People are more well informed exhorts to urinate that they may not have been aware of when they were in deeper sleep.”
As long as you are able to fall back to sleep within 5 or 10 minutes of a pee transgres, don’t stress. If it’s difficult to doze off again after a trip to the loo, bringing it up with your doc. ( Cant poop? These 10 foods will take care of that !)
Your hot flashes never quit .
Menopause’s famed hormonal wackiness can definitely disrupt your slumber, Dautovich told. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can make healthy sleep harder to come by, and insufferable hot flashes can wake some girls up or make it impossible to drift off. Mood changes can also trigger sleep problems, stimulating menopause decidedly unfriendly to sleep. Aside from following all the general sleep hygiene regulations, Dautovich suggested stimulating your sleep surrounding more “flexible” if you can: Sleep in breathable fabrics and layer sheets and blankets on the bed so you can easily fling ’em to the side mid-flash.
You are beginning to snore .
One of aging’s more unpleasant side effect is how easy it is to suddenly find yourself carrying a little bit of extra poundage. ( Take those pounds off with these 8 weight loss secrets no one but nutritionists know .)
That weight gain can lead to snoring, because a thicker neck entails a narrower windpipe, Breus explained. If your windpipe constricts so much it becomes blocked, you may even stop exhaling periodically throughout the night, known as obstructive sleep apnea. While sleep apnea is more common in men, he says, after menopause many more girls start to experience it, too. If you’re snoring or have apnea, you don’t get as much air in, Breus told, which changes the overall quality of sleep. Of course, you’re also likely bothering the person or persons lying next to you.
“If you sleep next to a snoring bed partner, you lose approximately one hour of sleep a night, ” he told.( Separate bedrooms suddenly doesn’t seem so outlandish …)
You’re at a higher danger for restless legs .
The rates of this mysterious sleep-related condition are beginning to climb after people reached 50 or so, Breus told. The overpowering recommend to move, usually the legs, can also grow more severe with age. Although there’s still a lot experts don’t wholly understand about restless legs disorder, it’s thought to be related to the brain chemical dopamine, which declines with age, or iron inadequacy, also common among older folks.
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