What Sleep is Like for Seniors

Throughout the various stages of our lives we face different challenges when it comes to sleeping. Oftentimes, sleeping grows quite complicated when you’re a middle-aged adult. This is because your hormones that affect your sleep and your circadian rhythm starts changing. You’re also more likely to suffer from health issues that affect your sleep, such as chronic stress.

What Sleep is Like When You’re in Your 60s

While it seems unfair that when your life starts to become more sleep friendly your ability to sleep declines, this often happens. At this stage in your life you tend to have more down time and control of your schedule, which means you’ll be under much less stress. However, you’re also undergoing a lot of physiological changes that make it more challenging than ever to get the sleep you need.

Women are undergoing their first decade of post-menopausal life at this time. While this can help improve sleep, some of the symptoms (e.g. hot flashes, headaches, physical pain, anxiety, mood swings) may gradually cause insomnia for some women. Hopefully you can quickly find a “new normal” after menopause but if you don’t, you should know that you’re not alone. There are also some women who suffer from sleep apnea for the first time when they become senior adults.

Women aren’t alone in their hormonal shifts here. Men also undergo some of their own. This is what’s known as andropause and it occurs when there’s a significant drop in testosterone. Unfortunately, about 20% of men suffer from this in their 60s and about another 50% suffer from it while they’re in their 80s. It can result in them having less energy, more fatigue, and an overall low mood. Of course, all these things can also affect sleep in male senior adults.

What Sleep is Like When You’re in Your 70s and Older

Some people wrongly believe that as we grow older our bodies need less sleep. While many senior adults do get less sleep and have their sleep scattered throughout the day, this doesn’t mean they need less sleep. In fact, research suggests that we need the same amount of sleep throughout our whole life. Your sleep cycle is simply different than when you were younger. For instance, a 20-year-old adult will spend 20% of their sleep getting restorative, deep, slow-wave sleep while a 70-year-old will only spend about 5% of their sleep time doing so.

Other significant changes also occur in senior adults at this stage of their life. These are things that can also have a negative impact upon their sleep. They include things like:

  • A shift in bio time due to changing biorhythms
  • Decreased production of melatonin – research suggests levels can be equal throughout the day and night by this time in your life
  • Some health issues negatively impact sleep in senior adults including gastrointestinal problems, hypothyroidism, arthritis and chronic pain

One Other Important Point to Ponder

Besides having sleep start to decline in senior adults, many people in this age group also find that their hearing starts to decline as well. As with sleep, you don’t have to let your hearing negatively impact your life. There are some things you can do to help yourself here as well. With this in mind, your first step should be to contact Countryside Hearing Aid Services so you can make an appointment to have your hearing checked. From there they’ll help you take the necessary steps to feel better here as well. Once both your sleep and your hearing improve, you’ll find yourself feeling a whole lot better so don’t put off taking these necessary steps today.

Picture Credit: 123rf.com