Seniors and Sleep: How Much Sleep You Need and How You Can Get It

We all need our Z’s, but does the amount of recommended sleep change with age?

Seniors have different needs when it comes to diet, exercise and other lifestyle habits, so it seems logical that you might also need a different amount of sleep as you get older.

In this guide, we examine how much sleep seniors need and how the body reacts differently to sleep in older age. We also share 10 sleeping tips to help seniors get the sleep they need.

Couple relaxing in bed

How much sleep do seniors need?

The National Sleep Foundation states that older adults (age 65 and older) need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per day.1 This number is about the same as the recommended amount of sleep for adults aged 18 and up, which is between 7 and 9 hours.

This means many seniors need about just as much sleep as their children and grown grandchildren in order to feel fully rested.

Why do some seniors sleep less than they need?

Seniors need the same amount of sleep as other adults, but not many seniors are actually getting that amount of sleep.

Researchers note that 50 percent of seniors suffer from insomnia.2 The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women over age 65 take 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep.3

And falling asleep is only half the battle. Seniors tend to sleep less deeply, with less time spent in REM sleep that is vital to a healthy night’s sleep.

What are some possible explanations for the difficulty that seniors face with sleeping?

  • Age-related conditions like restless leg syndrome, arthritis and a more active bladder can keep a person awake or prevent them from getting comfortable enough to sleep soundly.

  • Less exercise throughout the day means seniors are simply not exhausted enough to fall asleep easily.

  • Medications can cause increased heart rates and alertness, making it hard to doze off.

  • Snoring, which becomes more prevalent in old age, can wake up the person snoring or prevent a spouse in the same room from falling asleep.  

  • Napping in the afternoon can recharge your battery, but it can also make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you are then more prone to nap again the following afternoon. The cycle repeats itself.

  • Less time spent outside means less exposure to the sunlight, which confuses the body about day and night and disturbs its sleep cycle.

  • Stress related to finances, health, grief or other issues faced by older adults can make it hard to fall asleep.

Among the biggest changes we go through as we get older is to our circadian rhythm, or body clock. As we age, we gradually shift toward falling asleep earlier and waking up earlier in the morning.

If an older adult does not adapt their daily schedule to fit this new “body clock,” it may interfere with their sleep.

10 sleeping tips for seniors

There are a number of things seniors can do to sleep better at night and feel better throughout the day as a result:

  1. Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and night.

  2. Get some exercise each day, even if it’s just walking around the block. The exposure to sunlight will also help remind the body when its day and night.

  3. Try to limit daytime napping to no more than 30 minutes.

  4. Maintain a healthy diet. Sugary junk food and excessive amounts of caffeine can keep the body awake at night.

  5. Refrain from keeping a television in the bedroom. Limit exposure to electronics in the hours before bed.

  6. Follow a consistent bedtime routine during the final hour of the day.

  7. Avoid drinking fluids in the evening hours.  

  8. Use your bedroom only for sleep. This will help the brain associate that room with sleep.

  9. Move bedroom clocks out of immediate view. If a clock is visible from a laying down position, it can lead to “clock watching” and anxiety.

  10. If your spouse snores, use a sound machine or ear plugs, or even try sleeping in separate bedrooms.

These tips don’t guarantee a full night’s sleep, but they can certainly help.

Did you know that Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) can cover sleep tests, sleep apnea devices, prescription medication and more?

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Medicare Advantage plan benefits that could help you sleep better

Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) can cover some sleep research studies and sleep aides for beneficiaries showing signs of sleep apnea. And many Medicare Advantage plans also provide memberships to SilverSneakers fitness programs and prescription drug coverage.

Participating in exercise programs and staying in charge of your health can help you improve your sleep and get the healthy amount of rest you need.

To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans and to compare the benefits that are available with plans in your area, call a licensed insurance agent at TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not healthcare advice. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your specific healthcare needs.

 

1 Hirshkowitz, Max. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. (Feb. 18, 2015). Sleep Health, 1(1), 40-42. doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010.

2 Foley DJ, Monjan AA, Brown SL, Simonsick EM, Wallace RB, Blazer DG. Sleep complaints among elderly persons: an epidemiologic study of three communities. (July, 1995). Sleep, 18(6), 425–432. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7481413.

3 American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep and Growing Older. (Aug. 7, 2013). SleepEducation.org. Retrieved from sleepeducation.org/news/2013/08/07/sleep-and-growing-older.

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