Our sleep patterns change as we age, and several factors are contributing to changes in our sleep patterns as we age.
Changes in sleeping as we age are a part of the normal aging process, along with the physical changes that occur in our bodies as we get older. The old have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than the young.
Our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood according to research demonstrates. However, what can keep seniors awake?
- Sleep architecture means the changes in the patterns of our sleep occur as we age, contributing to sleep problems. Sleep occurs in a lot of stages like dreamless periods of light.
During the night, the sleep cycle is repeated several times. The old spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep although total sleep time tends to remain constant.
- Many older adults are less satisfied with sleep and more tired during the day.
People need more time to fall asleep, and less time in REM sleep, and more time in sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night) with age according to the studies on the sleep habits of older Americans. Along with the age, the prevalence of sleep disorders tends to increase.
Fortunately, much of the sleep disturbance among the elderly can be treated by medications since they are attributed to physical and psychiatric illnesses.
The circadian rhythms that coordinate the timing of our bodily functions, including sleep also can affect sleep. For instance, compared with younger adults, older people tend to wake earlier in the morning and become sleepier in the early evening. This is called advanced sleep phase syndrome. 7 or 8 hours of sleep are still obtained since the sleep rhythm is shifted forward. However, since the individuals have gone to sleep quite early, they will wake up extremely early. Now, it is not clearly understood the reason for these changes in sleep and circadian rhythms as we age.
- The prevalence of insomnia among older adults is also higher.
44% of older persons experience one or more of the nighttime symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more according to NSF’s 2003 Sleep in America poll. Insomnia is often related to an underlying cause such as a medical or psychiatric condition, and it can last over one month or last a few days or weeks.
Tell your doctors about insomnia symptoms and about any effects these symptoms may have. Thus he can know how serious a problem it is and what to do about it. For instance, you can cut back on caffeine and napping to solve this problem. You had better seek treatment if the insomnia is creating serious effects, complicating other conditions or making a person too tired to function normally during their waking hours. Insomnia can take a toll on a person’s health if the effects are serious and untreated.
People with insomnia feel tired during the day, difficulty concentrating. That not only can increase the risk of accidents and illness, but also significantly reduce the quality of life.
- Approximately 90 million American adults will snore.
People who are overweight tend to snore, and it becomes worse with age. Loud snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is associated with high blood pressure and other health problems. Breathing may stop for as long as 10-60 seconds along with OSA, alerting brain and causing a brief arousal (awakening) and breathing resumes. And, this may happen repeatedly at night, which will cause multiple sleep disruptions throughout the night and result in excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired daytime function.
You will bear the risk of cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss and depression if you don’t treat this. You might have sleep apnea and should talk to your doctor if you experience snoring on a regular basis and it can be heard from another room or you have been told you stop breathing or make loud or gasping noises during your sleep.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS), characterized by an irresistible urge to move the limbs, is a neurological movement disorder.
With RLS, you will feel tingling, creeping or pulling in your legs, and you will find it difficult to sleep through the night. Its prevalence increases with age. Generally, almost everyone in North America and Europe is reported to experience RLS symptoms. 80% of people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). 45% of all older persons have at least a mild form of PLMD.
- There is an increased incidence of medical problems as we age. People with poor health or chronic medical conditions are difficult to have a good sleep.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also cause sleep problems.
Pain also makes it difficult to fall asleep at night. Diabetes mellitus, renal failure, respiratory diseases are all associated with sleep problems and disorders. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases also cause problems sleeping.