Seniors and Sleep: How aging changes your ZZZZ’s

As you probably know, sleep occurs in multiple stages. The normal sleep cycle includes periods of light and deep sleep, with periods of active dreaming, referred to as REM sleep. This varied cycle is repeated several times nightly.

But alas, aging puts a monkey wrench into our usual sleep patterns. First of all, many of us find it harder to fall asleep and we tend to awaken more as well. What’s more, the transition between being asleep and awake is more abrupt, which accounts for the notion that seniors are light sleepers.

According to the New York Times, as we age less time is spent in deep, dreamless sleep. Additionally, older people average 3 or 4 awakenings a night.

The New York Times, also advises that seniors respond differently to medications than younger adults. “So it is very important to consult with a health care provider before taking medications for sleep.”

Looking for some drug-free ways to promote sleep? See if these tips can direct you to dreamland.

  1. Exercise in the afternoon
  2. Avoid caffeine for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed.
  3. Try a light bedtime snack. Or enjoy a cup of warm milk, which may naturally increase sleepiness with its natural sedative-like amino acid.
  4. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule; going to bed and rising at the same time each day.
  5. Avoid naps.
  6. Avoid alcohol at bedtime because it increases nighttime awakenings.