Do You Need Less Sleep As You Age?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says that all adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, regardless of  their being young, middle-aged or senior. (Infants, children and sometimes teens generally need more.)

As you age into your greying years, however, you may well find yourself sleeping fewer or less fulfilling hours at night. That’s when age dictates you learn the value of napping and resting between spurts of activity — and of good sleep hygiene practices.

Nonetheless, some seniors do get by perfectly well on less sleep, and their days are mostly unaffected. On the other hand, many find it more difficult to sleep as they age and do suffer in the daytime. If that’s you, then you need to adapt your sleep habits to your new bodily dictates.

Once again, good sleep hygiene to the rescue: Go to bed and arise at the same time everyday. Maintain a dark, quiet and cool bedroom environment, free of TVs, tablets, e-readers and other sources of light and sound. Take a warm bath before retiring. Avoid caffeine after lunch, and don’t drink alcohol before bed. Keep mealtime hours far removed from beddy-bye.

If after practicing good sleep hygiene, you still have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, resulting in an energy-less day, you may need to elevate your pursuit. Keep a “sleep diary,” which includes jotting down everything you do during the day and everything you experience at night — fitful sleep, awaking and not being able to get back to sleep (when and for how long?), time to bed, time of awakening. Everything. Then discuss your diary with your doctor.

There may be physical conditions that are causing your sleep difficulties. There may also be medications you’re taking that interfere with your sleep pattern. Your doctor can help diagnose these causes.

If you suspect you’re suffering from a sleep disorder such as apnea, chronic snoring or restless leg syndrome — of if you doctor suggests you might be — then it’s time to seek out a sleep professional for an evaluation, including most likely a sleep evaluation, whether at home or in a sleep clinic.

Again, whatever your age, you need a good night’s sleep to function fully in the daytime, so take care to follow good sleep-hygiene habits and seek professional help if that’s what’s required.

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