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Why Sleeping Can Be Difficult as You Age

This week, we are happy to share a blog post from Aaron Stevenson , the the founder of Snooze EZ.

Are the nights getting more frequent where you are trying to close your eyes, but the Sandman apparently forgot your address? Have you noticed how difficult it is to sleep as you age? Well, no wonder, you look in the mirror and you’re another year older. Although it may not be welcome news, you can rest and be assured that changes to your sleep pattern are normal.

Sleep is an interesting subject of study. The sleep cycle, or “Sleep Architecture” as studies have called it, are changes in our pattern of sleep. Our sleep cycle occurs in several different stages during the night including periods of deep sleep, R.E.M sleep (dreaming period) or even times where you don’t experience dreams at all. The recommended amount of sleep that an adult should get each night is around eight hours, but everyone’s needs are different.

As we grow older, people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep. Reasons for this include:

  • Aging
  • Insomnia
  • Snoring/Sleep Apnea
  • Too Many Naps
  • Life Changes and Depression
  • Medical Problems/Chronic Illness

Growing older is a primary source of sleep disturbance. As you age, you tend to wake up more during the night. Studies on the sleep habits of older Americans show an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency), an overall decline in R.E.M sleep, and an increase in waking up during the night known as “sleep fragmentation.” Research claims that your sleep schedule actually starts to decrease as early as your 20’s, and as for older adults, studies indicate that seniors require the same amount of sleep as young children.

Insomnia is never fun for anyone. It is the most common of all sleep problems for adults. If you suffer from insomnia it means that it takes a longer time to fall asleep and when you wake up during the night, it is almost impossible to go back to sleep.

Reasons for insomnia can include stress, loss of a loved one, or medical problems. If you are dealing with any of these issues, it is best to contact your doctor to try to work through the issues contributing to your insomnia.

Snoring/Sleep Apnea
Snoring affects approximately 40% of adults and occurs more often in people who are overweight. Not only does snoring affect your own sleep by causing you to wake up during the night, but it is likely affecting your partner’s sleep as well.

Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops for a time during sleep. It usually requires treatment through CPAP masks like these. Sleep apnea is a condition that can cause severe sleeping problems

Too Many Naps
People who suffer through not being able to sleep at night will often take more naps during the day in an effort to recharge. However, this cycle of “day sleeping” will almost certainly affect an individual’s sleep patterns at night and exacerbate his or her sleep disturbances.

Life Changes and Depression
Changes in family or living situations, as well as dealing with the stresses of parenting and aging all affect the sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation or excess sleeping can also be signs of depression. Before turning out the lights, it is important to take time to relax and try calm your mind. If you feel that your depression is not improving, you should seek guidance from an experienced health professional.

Medical Problems/Chronic Illness
According to studies, older individuals tend to wake up more often during the night because they spend less time in a deep sleep. Medical causes of deep sleep disruption can include the need to go to the bathroom, anxiety, and/or pain from a long-term chronic illness. Sleep disturbances among the elderly can be attributed to both physical and psychiatric illnesses, as well as the use of certain medications. Restless Leg Syndrome, Narcolepsy, and Hypersomnia are also contributing causes to sleep difficulty.

How Can I Change my Sleep Schedule?
It is important to speak to a health professional about your insomnia symptoms and how they are affecting your sleep patterns. Your doctor can help to assess if there is serious a problem with your sleep, and if so, he/she may choose to prescribe certain tests and/or a sleep medication.

Aside from medication, here are some simple changes that you can make on your own to help with sleep issues:

  • Eat a light snack before bed
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid napping
  • Exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Create a sleep schedule

Finally, if you ever wake up in the middle of the night, DO NOT pick up your phone or tablet! The blue light emitted by these devices tricks the brain into thinking that it is daytime, which in turn makes it much harder to fall back asleep.

Making some recommended changes to your daytime and evening routines is a great first step in trying to improve your sleep cycle. By creating new routines that support a healthy sleep schedule, hopefully you will be on your way to a better night’s sleep in no time at all!

Aaron Stevenson is the founder of Snooze EZ. He is always researching and writing about sleep in his free time, if he isn’t fishing!

For Elder Law, Long Term Care and Estate Planning issues,  please contact the attorneys at Zacharia Brown by calling 724.942.6200 or by visiting our website at to determine the best plan for you and your family.

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