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Sleep and Aging. Meredith Broderick, MD April 2, 2008. Sleep and Aging. How does sleep change as we age? Do we need less sleep as we get older? Can a person expect to experience more sleep problems or have a sleep disorder as they advance in age?

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sleep and aging

Sleep and Aging

Meredith Broderick, MD

April 2, 2008

sleep and aging2
Sleep and Aging
  • How does sleep change as we age?
  • Do we need less sleep as we get older?
  • Can a person expect to experience more sleep problems or have a sleep disorder as they advance in age?
  • As we age, how does sleep affect our overall health, medical conditions and general well being?
  • What can we do to get good sleep?
what is aging what is sleep
What is aging? What is sleep?
  • multidimensional process of physical, psychological, and social change
myths about sleep and aging
Myths about sleep and aging
  • Poor sleep is an inevitable consequence of getting older
  • Being sleepy is part of the aging process
health and environment affect our sleep
Health and Environment Affect Our Sleep

With age, we become more sensitive to:

  • Hormonal Changes
  • Physiological Conditions
  • Environmental Conditions
    • Light
    • Noise
    • Temperature
normal sleep and normal aging sleep efficiency
Normal Sleep and Normal Aging:Sleep Efficiency

Sleep Efficiency

(% Time in Bed Sleeping)




Changes with age

changes in sleep with aging
Changes in sleep with Aging
  • Increased napping through out the day
  • Increased sleep latency
  • Increase in awakenings and arousals
  • Decreased stage 3 and 4 sleep (slow wave sleep)
  • Increased stage 1 sleep. Stage 2 sleep is variable.
  • Decreased REM sleep. REM sleep appears to be equally distributed through sleep cycles. I.e. there is no increase in REM at the end of the sleep period.
  • Reduced sleep efficiency
  • Increased stage shifts
  • Fewer cycles
  • Phase advancement
  • Decreased melatonin levels
sleep changes and aging
Sleep changes and aging
  • Aging is associated with malfunction or decrease in sensitivity of the SCN to environmental cues to adjust circadian rhythm to a natural 24-hour day/night cycle
  • More fragmented sleep
  • Increased in stage 1 and 2 sleep with more fragmented REM sleep indicating more dreaming
  • Slow wave sleep is reduced
sleep and aging14
Sleep and Aging
  • In the 2003 Sleep in America poll, NSF profiled the sleep patterns of older Americans. About two-thirds of older adults reported experiencing one or more symptoms of a sleep problem at least a few nights a week
age related changes in the brain
Age related changes in the Brain
  • Decrease brain to cranium volume
  • Loss of neurons
  • Loss of mass
  • Increasing gray to white ratio
sleep and aging16
Sleep and Aging
  • NSF 2003 Sleep in America poll
  • The first NSF poll to look at the sleep habits of older Americans -- those between the ages of 55 and 84 -- and the association between their sleep behavior, their medical and physical conditions, their outlook and their lifestyles.
sleep and aging17
Sleep and Aging
  • More older adults are sleeping 7-9 hours on both weeknights and weekends (56% vs. 51% for weeknights and 60% vs. 55% for weekends). Additionally, the 32% of older adults who nap 1–3 days a week or more get an average of 41-51 minutes of supplemental sleep time.
sleep and aging18
Sleep and Aging
  • NSF poll found that the better the health of older adults, the more likely they are to sleep well
  • The greater the number of diagnosed medical conditions, the more likely they are to report sleep problems.
  • Positive moods and outlooks as well as having more active and "engaged" lifestyles (having someone to speak with about a problem, exercise, volunteer activity, etc.) are associated with sleeping 7–9 hours and fewer sleep complaints.
sleep and aging19
Sleep and Aging
  • Rather than a consequence of aging, poor sleep among older Americans appears to be an indicator of health status
summary sleep changes
Summary:Sleep Changes
  • Sleep during the night changes with increasing age:
    • Less deep sleep and more lighter sleep
    • More difficulty maintaining sleep due to arousals and awakenings
    • Sleep is less efficient and more fragmented
  • The internal biological clock shifts to earlier bed and wake times
  • Older persons experience a higher prevalence of medical conditions and take meds that interrupt sleep and are associated with sleep
  • problems/disorders
  • Older persons experience a higher prevalence of sleep disorders
summary consequences of sleep changes
Summary:Consequences of Sleep Changes
  • Tendency to stay in bed longer to get a sufficientamount of sleep results in worse sleep
  • More likely to take more naps to meetsleep need—may result in worse sleep
  • Inadequate or poor sleep results in daytimesleepiness and fatigue
  • Ability to function well, enjoy life andoverall quality of life is affected
summary what you can do
Summary:What you can do
  • Learn about sleep
    • Understand how your sleep changes and observe your habits and experiences
  • Apply healthy sleep practices to your sleep style so that you get sufficient quality sleep
  • Talk to your doctor about your sleep and see a sleep specialist if you experience chronic difficulty sleeping and/or have symptoms of sleep disorders