Having Trouble Sleeping? Don’t Blame Your Age

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of the specific memories I have of my grandmother was her sleep habits.  At certain times of the year, it was difficult for her to stay awake until it got dark outside.  In the morning, she’d be up before dawn, peeking out the window to wait for her newspaper to be delivered.  My mom and I used to chuckle about the fact that my grandma would be up and ready to start the day by 4 a.m.  Now, I’m the one chuckling because my mom is becoming just like her.
“I was up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep,” she’ll tell me.  Or she’ll comment that she can’t go to evening movies anymore because she can’t stay awake.  She attributes it to aging, but some new research shows that age may not be to blame if your quality of shut-eye isn’t what it used to be.  And it could be time to discuss the problem with your doctor. 
The study, published in the journal Sleep, looked at data from over 150,000 responses to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  Questions in the survey related to self-reported sleep disturbance and tiredness.  An analysis of the data found no relationship between age and lower quality of sleep or lack of energy.  “Scientists suspect that sleep problems in many older Americans may be a symptom of underlying illness, not simply aging.”  Those illnesses included poor general health and depression.  “Looking at reports of sleep problems across all ages, the researchers also found a slight increase in sleep disturbances during middle age. But overall, most people reported fewer sleep problems as they grew older, and 80-year-old people had fewer complaints than those who were 50.”
Other studies have come to the same conclusion that healthy older people don’t have any more trouble falling asleep than those who are younger.  If you are having trouble sleeping, especially if it’s a new problem, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to your doctor.  They can help rule out any underlying medical conditions, medications that could be interfering with your sleep quality, etc.  (Don’t worry, my mom has discussed her problem with her doctor to make sure she’s in good health.)
Wondering how much you know about sleep?  Take SparkPeople’s Sleep Quiz and take our Sleep Challenge.
What do you think?  Have your sleeping patterns changed as you age?  If so, how have you dealt with it? 

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Sleeping is something I seldom have trouble with! Report
Taking care of an aged parent hinders my sleep at night. Report
I find my sleep patterns are greatly influenced by light. If I use a sleep mask or am in a room with heavy curtains, I sleep better! Report
Sleep evades me a lot. But there is depression, so that connection makes at least as much sense and aging. I'm doing both. Report
When older people complain of not getting enough sleep, the fact is that they usually take small catnaps (10-15min) during the day. I know because this is what I do. Subsequently, I usually get only about 6 hours of sleep at night. Add up these catnaps and I think I get enough sleep. Report
Great information. Always thought it was a age thing. Report
I guess when I am working out or reading a good book I can't put down, I have NO problems falling asleep. If I am stressed then I will up all night without a drop of coffee in my system. Report
I'm 62 and have no trouble sleeping. Report
If only I could sleep through the night... Report
I can get to sleep (usually - sometimes like last night I had insomnia) and I can even stay asleep (usually) but even when I do I still wake up exhausted. I had a sleep study done and I DO NOT have sleep apnea... I have interupted Delta sleep. There is nothing that can be done about it. NOTHING. It stinks. :( Report
I find that I need less sleep now than twenty years ago. I have a better sleep routine and fewer distractions. Report
Post-menopause I sleep better than I have at any other time in my life.

Happy to say it is a HUGE improvement. Report
If I slept through the night, I would think I was on the brink of death. Menopause has fixed that for me.....I only hope not permanently! UGH! Report
My sleeping patterns have changed because of my activities and interests. If I am excited about what I am going to be doing the next day, I seem to wake up earlier. If I have trouble sleeping, I take 3mg of melatonin to tell my body it is time to sleep and it works most of the time. Report
Since changing jobs I haven't been sleeping well. Stress I think is the culprit. Report
I'm so much of a night owl, but I love the feeling I get when I wake up early and go to the gym. In College, I could do both, but if I stay up after 10pm, there's no way I'll get up to go to the gym. I've now learned that in order to have one, I have to give up on the other. So my social life is declining a little bit since all my friends are night owls as well. I find I get a lot better of a night's sleep when I go to bed earlier, and feel more refreshed when I wake up. I don't think this is just a change in sleeping pattern, but it's also learning what works for you. Report
I wonder how much of it has to do with whether, as we age, we get more freedom to schedule our time as we wish. If we don't have someone telling us we have to be at work at 8 am, or kids that we have to get ready for school early, if social conversations don't rely on discussing prime-time television, we might choose to get up earlier, go to bed earlier, or nap during the day. It might seem that it's less sleep, but probably evens out in the long run. Report
When I was a teen, I'd love sleeping until 10 or 11 am. That's because I wanted to stay up late and watch TV. These days, a friend of mine accused me of keeping farmer's hours i.e. up with the sun and in bed with the sun. Which isn't too far off base. Like the old adage says,"early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise". Well, I'm not wealthy. So, two out of three ain't bad. LOL !!

Anyway, as I've aged, I tend to be more productive in the morning. I'm definitely more of an early bird, than a night owl.

Now, there is one age related complication that has disrupted my night's rest and that's peri- menopause. There have been days when I just can't seem to sleep and I usually sleep very soundly. However, the occasional evening "power surge" has interrupted my sleep. I try to avoid caffeine. I drink lots of tea. yoga breathing techniques have helped a bit too. some days though, I really could use a nap. Which is interesting because as a child, I didn't want to take my naps ! Now, I would love to have an afternoon siesta !!