Impact of ageing on sleep

We don’t only gain experience as we get older, our bodies also go through drastic physical changes, and our sleep patterns don’t escape unscathed. With age, it’s common to struggle to fall asleep. Remember when you were a teenager and you could sleep until midday after a long night out? Unfortunately, this becomes less likely as you age. Many people think that we actually need less sleep as we get older but that’s not the case. Research has actually shown that we need the same amount of sleep throughout our adult life. Changes to our sleep architecture come into play as we age and this is where sleep troubles occur. 1 2 7 8

Many older people struggle to fall asleep or wake up repeatedly during the night. They often make do with 6 – 7 hours of sleep a night. There are several different factors that can play a part in this, including medications used, physical illness and changes to the circadian rhythms that regulate our internal clocks. 1 2 8

It’s common that older people will be more tired in the early evening and wake up early the next day. This pattern is referred to as “advanced sleep phase syndrome”. The process means that your sleep rhythm shifts back in time, effectively meaning you’ll need to go to bed earlier and will then wake up earlier. 8