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How sleep changes as we get older (and what to do about it)

A few years ago I wrote that those over 60 are more likely to complain about not getting enough sleep - but in fact, they actually need less of it.

Today I want to update this subject and talk about how sleep changes as we age, and how we can improve our sleep as we get older.

It's still true that those over the age of 60 need around 30-60 minutes less sleep compared to someone in their 20s. 

Unfortunately, seniors are still more likely to suffer from insomnia and disrupted sleep compared to their younger peers.

These sleep problems include:

  • Fewer hours of sleep each night,
  • Taking longer to fall asleep at night,
  • Going to bed earlier and waking earlier, 
  • Reduced levels of deep 'slow brain wave' sleep,
  • More fragmented sleep.

Often, these issues are a result of conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain, depression and even dementia. 

Sometimes, the medication you're taking can be the cause of sleep disruption.

So when it comes to improving sleep as we get older, what can be done?

When it comes to sleeping pills, short term use of low-dose nonbenzodiazepines (such as zolpidem - Ambien) are preferred to benzodiazepines since they're not as strongly linked to side-effects such as hypertension and cognitive impairment in seniors.

Seniors are also less likely to develop a tolerance towards nonbenzodiazepines. Zaleplon is the preferred medication for seniors due to its short halflife.

If you want to avoid the drugs (always my preferred option), cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven effective time and time again - as has yoga.

Fore more information on all the options, click the source link below.

Source: Pharmacy Times

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Last updated: April 9, 2013

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

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