As you age, your body will continue to change. In quite a few ways, actually. It’s perfectly normal for your metabolism to slow down, your skin to start losing some of its elasticity, and your joints to become stiffer. Most people know to expect these changes. What they rarely expect is for age to impact their ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Starting in your late 20s, you may find that you’re getting fewer hours of quality sleep than usual. That’s right. Your late 20s. By the time you hit 50, you’ll only get an estimated half of the deep sleep you enjoyed in your youth. At 70 years old, the average adult doesn’t get much - if any - deep sleep. Older adults tend to wake up more throughout the night, which prevents them from getting the optimal amount of deep sleep.
Numerous studies have proven this to be true, and there are a slew of different theories as to why sleep declines with age. Here’s a peek inside the most popular ones:
Physical and Mental Illnesses
Some experts believe that older adults have more trouble sleeping because of physical and mental ailments. Let’s talk arthritis, for example. Over 54 million adults have arthritis. This means that there are 54 million people across America who might be in too much pain to sleep soundly through the night. They may toss and turn, trying to get comfortable, without ever falling into a deep sleep.
Periodic limb movement disorder is another health condition that can make it hard to fall - and stay - asleep at night. Have you heard of restless legs syndrome? Well, periodic limb movement disorder is similar. It’s a condition characterized by the urge to move your limbs and is extremely common among older adults. We’re talking 45% of them, although some cases are far more severe than others.
It’s not hard to see why having a physical or mental ailment could impact your sleep schedule. Critics of this theory would argue that physical and mental illnesses could account for some of the sleep decline in older adults, but not all of it.
Because we’re more likely to experience health issues as we age, we’re also more likely to take medications. Unfortunately, some medications can interfere with your sleep. Even if you’ve taken a prescription for years, a change in dosage or even the time of day it’s taken could impact your sleep. Be sure to talk to your doctor about whether or not any medications you take could be the culprit behind your sleep issues.
A Decrease in Melatonin Levels
Melatonin is a hormone best known as the primary regulator of your sleep-wake cycle. This means that it controls when you fall asleep at night and when you wake up in the morning. Your brain releases Melatonin in response to a decrease in environmental light. As dusk falls, it gets to work, making you feel drowsy and ready for bed. Researchers believe that melatonin levels decrease gradually as you age, disrupting your circadian rhythm and causing your sleep quality to deteriorate.
Some experts think older adults’ decline in sleep is due to changes in their lifestyles. As adults get older, they tend to be less active. Since physical activity affects the quality of sleep, being less active can make it harder to fall asleep. If this is the case, increasing your level of physical activity could make it easier to get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to note that an increase in physical activity is not always an option for some adults with physical limitations.
Lack of sleep can leave anyone - especially older adults - feeling agitated and irritable. You don’t have to live like this. These simple tips can help improve your quality of sleep. If you’re still struggling, try incorporating Som Sleep into your routine. Som uses Magnesium and Vitamin B6 to help optimize your body’s natural sleep cycle, L-Theanine and GABA to promote relaxation, and Melatonin to help your body start the process of falling asleep so you can get the rest you deserve.