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Sleep and Aging: The Facts about Seniors and Sleep

Getting older doesn't have to mean getting less sleep


Mature man asleep on bed, close up
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Contrary to a common misconception, seniors need just as much sleep as younger adults—about seven to nine hours per night—but it may be harder for seniors to get the sleep they need.

Some Seniors Fall Asleep Slowly and Awaken Frequently
Many seniors have trouble falling asleep. A study of adults over 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Older adults also wake up more often at night than younger adults, primarily to use the bathroom, owing to prostate enlargement in men and incontinence issues in women.

Unfortunately, getting up at night to use the bathroom also increases the risk of falling, which is a leading cause of injury and death among seniors. For seniors, loss of sleep is also likely to cause attention and memory problems, lead to depression, and result in a poorer quality of life.

Sleeplessness is Not Normal
While sleep patterns do change as people age, having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and waking up tired every day are not typical side effects of aging. Many healthy seniors report few or no sleep problems as they age.

The National Institutes of Health web site includes a Sleep and Aging section that provides detailed information about the importance of sleep for seniors, some of the sleep difficulties people encounter as they age, and the symptoms and treatment of various sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and movement disorders.

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