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How Much Sleep Should an Older Adult Get?

Shelli Bakken | Jul 8, 2015

Lock the doors – check; fluff the pillows – check; set the alarm – check … the constant yawning tells you that falling asleep should be easy. Unfortunately, as soon as you lie down, turn off the light, and roll over the sleepiness goes away. You toss and turn and end up getting very little sleep.

You know sleep is important for your body and mind. So, how much sleep should an older adult get each night? Should you be concerned when sleep seems to evade you for hours?

Why is a Good Night’s Sleep Important?


Getting a good night's sleep is as important to the human body as air, water, and food. There needs to be a balance of both quality and quantity to stay healthy and alert. As people age, however, there tends to be a point where both the quality and quantity of sleep begins to taper off. This can leave you more susceptible to feeling lethargic, unenergetic, or even physically ill.

How Many Hours of Sleep do You Need?

There are no specific studies that can prove exactly how much sleep any one individual needs. It varies by age, activity level, hormones, or something as innocuous as how much light there is within your normal living environment. It is a trusted average that a human spends at least one-third of their lives in sleep mode.

The National Sleep Foundation states that an average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. The same is true no matter if you are 30, 50, or 70 years of age. The problem is many seniors report that sleep is not as restful as it was in their previous years. There is an upswing in periods of insomnia, light stage sleep, and many are easily awakened by the smallest sounds.

Your circadian rhythm can have everything to do with your actual sleep pattern. This is the internal switch that tells your body it is time for sleep. Changes in natural light, different daily routines, or changes in health can throw off your natural rhythm. This is why you start to feel sleepy and sluggish on cloudy days, for example. This personal circadian rhythm is what controls the sleeping patterns of humans. You should always make sure that the lighting is bright when you are awake and darken the room as much as possible for sleep.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

1. No Electronics in Bed
Your mind and body need to be synchronized and know that when you get into bed it is time to sleep. Watching television, using a laptop, or looking at your phone will send mixed signals and cause you to experience difficulty getting to sleep.

2. Don’t Go to Bed Until You’re Tired
If it feels like you are going to toss and turn and are wide-awake, it is not time to try going to bed. Wait until your body signals that you are ready. If you’re stressed or have had a busy day, find a way to unwind and relax to help calm your body and mind.

3. Avoid Caffeine Later in the Day
A natural conclusion to too much caffeine is lack of sleep. If you typically drink several cups of coffee or caffeinated soda throughout the afternoon and early evening, try cutting back to allow your body and mind to wind down. Also be conscious of foods that have natural caffeine in them.

4. Avoid High-Processed Foods, Sugars, and Carbohydrates Close to Bedtime
Nothing says, "I'm wired and cannot sleep" quite like having excess amounts of energy from sugar in your bloodstream. If you've eaten something without thinking, try drinking a glass of water and do a moderate exercise routine. This will help bring down your blood sugar quickly.


If you still find that you have problems getting and staying asleep, talk with your doctor about how you can improve your sleep cycle and routine. There is help out there for medical problems and insomnia that will get you to the perfect amount of sleep for you. It’s important for your overall health and well-being.

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