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How Our Sleep Changes as We Age

Hey Angels and Alphas,

It’s a well-known fact that infants could sleep for up to 17 hours a day. And no, it’s not because they’re lazy babies, it’s because their bodies need it.

School kids require more sleep than teenagers, teenagers require more sleep than adults. And as we age, our sleep requirements change, along with our circadian rhythm – which dictates exactly when we feel alert and when we feel tired.

There are also countless lifestyle factors that change as we age, and they age an impact on our sleep.

If you’re someone who is still growing or you have a very demanding exercise or work schedule, your body will likely need more sleep so it can aid its growth and recovery.

And for a lot of people, aging is tied to sleep concerns, and these sleep issues are, in their own right, tied to a myriad of health problems from weight gain to heart disease… that’s why it pays to understand how sleep changes as we age.

How exactly does aging affect sleep – and why?

According to the National Library of Medicine, countless people experience more difficulty as they’re trying to fall asleep and trying to stay asleep, and as they get older, they wake up earlier in the morning. Overall sleep time could potentially decrease, even if the time in bed does not.

And yes, there’s a reason for this. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the circadian rhythm of the body experiences a “phase advance,” which means it shifts forward in time as we age.

This phase advance is typically experienced in the form of getting tired earlier in the day, waking up earlier in the morning, and more. It can also mean that older adults spend more time in the earlier hours of the day, in the lighter stages of sleep, and actually achieve less deep sleep throughout the night.

But even though people who are older may be getting less sleep, this isn’t because they’re wired to function on fewer hours of sleep. Older adults also require the same amount of sleep as young adults… roughly 7-9 hours every night.

How does our sleep change through the decades?

On average, you’re more likely to be a night owl in your 20s. Preferring the evening hours over the early morning is usual. You may potentially be struggling to function early in the morning which is basically a carryover from the post-puberty years of adolescence.

When we are young, we can technically get away with less sleep, but this absolutely changes as the years go by. More people develop a fondness for turning waking up early in the morning by the time they get to be 30 years old. Unfortunately, that’s when total sleep time starts to decrease for most people.

Our 30s and 40s are usually filled with demanding jobs, stress, family lives, career, and more. That’s why we tend to fall into much longer lifestyle patterns during these decades… with routines that are more structured. When those routines do not prioritize sleep, or don’t allow us enough rest every night, it can be difficult to break the habits that you’ve developed over the years.

It’s a well-known fact that the total amount of sleep we get decreases linearly as we age… with an average of 10 minutes of lost sleep per decade.

And what’s more… the way we sleep also changes. The percentage of deep sleep we actually get every night starts to decrease linearly with 2 percent per decade until the age 60.

In your 60s and beyond, the loss of total sleep time plateaus.

Sleep issues start presenting themselves in different ways for each gender.

There have been meta-analyses done of over 65 studies, and they’ve found that women are more likely to have trouble falling asleep as they age… but that being said, men are more likely to experience a shorter total sleep time, and to wake up more often during the night.

All that can actually seem a bit depressing, but there’s still hope for those of us who want a restful night’s sleep!

General wellness, sleep hygiene, a regular sleep schedule, avoiding late meals, limiting screen time, and winding down before you go to sleep can help you fall asleep much faster and enjoy much more restful sleep.

Considering that sleep is so vital to your health and wellness, making these adjustments is definitely worth the effort.

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