tired senior man on bedWhile you may have heard we need less sleep with age, that’s actually a myth! Adults of all ages should strive for at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Seniors over 65 are advised to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep to keep their bodies and minds healthy.

Unfortunately, it’s common for seniors to have trouble sleeping. A lack of adequate sleep can prevent aging adults from feeling fully rested and alert the next day. Learn how age can affect sleep, along with how to address common issues seniors face.

How Does Aging Affect Sleep?

For a variety of reasons, it can become more difficult to fall and stay asleep as we get older. Seniors are more prone to health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis, which can disrupt sleep patterns. In particular, arthritis can cause discomfort during the night that affects quality of sleep.

There are also certain outside factors that can cause sleep problems. As many seniors are retired, they have more time throughout the day for activities. This can make it difficult to maintain a consistent routine. If more tiring hobbies lead to daytime napping, this can also affect your ability to fall asleep later on at night.

Common Sleep Disorders

While there are more than 80 different types of sleep disorders, the following problems most commonly impact older adults.


This disorder makes it difficult to fall and remain asleep throughout the night. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, up to 48 percent of older adults have symptoms of insomnia, including:

  • Waking up during the night
  • Daytime tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing

Insomnia is often more common among seniors because of environmental factors related to age, including a decrease in melatonin production.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start while you are unconscious. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, this condition affects up to 20 percent of older adults. This potentially dangerous disorder is common among seniors due to a loss of muscle in the upper airway as we age.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. As the sensation typically occurs at night, it can greatly affect your ability to get comfortable and fall sleep. Restless legs syndrome can occur in people of all ages but risk increases as you get older. Women are also more commonly affected than men.

Tips for Improved Sleep

Sleep is essential for stress relief, proper brain function and maintaining energy throughout the day. If you do not get enough sleep each night, you may experience fatigue, irritability lapses in attention and delayed reactions, which can be especially dangerous when driving. Consider the following tips to encourage a better night’s sleep:

  • Get exercise during the day
  • No screen time before bed
  • Set a regular bedtime
  • Skip daytime naps
  • Drink less caffeine and alcohol
  • Create a cool and comfortable sleeping environment

Our medical and nursing team is dedicated to promoting each patient’s optimal function. If you have difficulty sleeping after a surgical recovery or due to another health issue, consult with our professionals. To learn more, contact Avon Health Center today!