older man insomnia
Senior Health

Sleep and Aging

Ever since he retired, Edward dreads going to bed at night. He’s afraid that when he turns off his light, he will just lie there with his eyes open and his mind racing. “How can I break this cycle?” he asks. “I’m so tired—I need to get some sleep.”

Just like Edward, you want a good night’s rest. Getting enough sleep helps you stay healthy and alert. But, many older people don’t sleep well. If you’re always sleepy or you find it hard to get enough sleep at night, it may be time to see a doctor. Waking up every day feeling tired is a sign that you are not getting the rest you need.

Sleep and Aging

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger.

There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. Some medicines can keep you awake. No matter the reason, if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day you may:

  • Be irritable
  • Havememory problems or be forgetful
  • Feeldepressed
  • Have morefalls or accidents

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Being older doesn’t mean you have to be tired all the time. You can do many things to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some ideas:

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule.Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
  • Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening,if you can. Naps may keep you awake at night.
  • Develop a bedtime routine.Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
  • Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom.The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. And alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature,not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
  • Use low lighting in the eveningsand as you prepare for bed.
  • Exerciseat regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime—they can keep you awake.
  • Stay away from caffeine late in the day.Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.
  • Remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep.Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.

Insomnia Is Common in Older Adults

Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia can last for days, months, and even years. Having trouble sleeping can mean you:

  • Take a long time to fall asleep
  • Wake up many times in the night
  • Wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep
  • Wake up tired
  • Feel very sleepy during the day