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A Guide: How Much Sleep Do You Need as You Age?

How to adapt your sleep routine as you get older

Sleep shapes our health in profound ways, offering restoration for the mind and body. It’s the unsung hero of our daily lives as it’s essential for memory, mood and physical wellness.

Beyond its immediate benefits, sleep ‌is key for long-term health, influencing everything from cardiovascular well-being to metabolic processes. Its role is dynamic, changing as we age, with each phase of life bringing new challenges and needs.

Recognising and adapting to these shifts is crucial, ensuring that sleep continues to support our health, rather than becoming a source of stress.

What we’ll be looking into:

Sleep’s really powerful, and we want to help you harness its benefits at every stage of life.

Sleep and its stages

Let’s explore the world of sleep by first unpacking the stages of sleep. Think of it as the body’s version of a night out. First, we have the light sleep phase, akin to the early evening when you’re just starting to relax. Here, your body is easing into the night, like dipping your toes into a warm bath.

Next up, deep sleep—this is the heart of the party, where the real magic happens. Your body is in full repair mode, mending muscles and refreshing the mind. It’s during this stage that growth hormone is released, helping to restore and rebuild body tissues and strengthen the immune system.

Then comes REM sleep, the dream stage. Imagine it as the night’s vivid finale, where dreams run wild and your brain is buzzing with activity. It’s when your brain decides to throw its own private festival, showcasing everything from the bizarre to the sublime. This stage is crucial for memory consolidation and processing emotions, making it an essential component of a good night’s rest.

What the experts say:

According to NHS Borders, understanding these stages is crucial because they’re all about quality, not just quantity. Deep sleep and REM are particularly important for feeling refreshed. They highlight that if we’re cutting our sleep short, we might be missing out on these vital phases, making us feel like we’ve left the party too early.

Integrating all stages of sleep into our nightly routine isn’t about hitting specific numbers but ensuring we give our bodies the full experience.

Sleep in youth: building foundations

When it comes to the sleep needs of children and adolescents, hitting the sack early is important and quality and timing is key. These younger years are crucial, not just for physical growth, but for mental and emotional development too. The right amount of sleep sets the stage for a day of learning, playing and interacting in a world that’s always teaching them something new.

Melatonin, our body’s natural sleep promoter, plays a key role in this process. However, during adolescence, the timing of melatonin release shifts, making teenagers biologically inclined to stay up later, and get up later. This isn’t only a social preference; it’s a physiological change that can clash with early school start times.

What the experts say:

Mind points out the increased sleep needs during these formative years, highlighting how crucial rest is for mental health. Bupa emphasises the challenge of aligning teens’ natural sleep patterns with their daily schedules, suggesting practical tips for adjusting routines to accommodate their shifting internal clocks.

While the exact number might vary, the message is clear: respecting and adjusting to these natural rhythms can make all the difference in the health and happiness of young people.

Sleep in the prime years: balancing work and rest

Adulthood brings its own set of sleep challenges, where the balancing act of work and rest becomes a daily endeavour. The prime years often see us juggling professional responsibilities, social lives, and family duties, all of which can encroach on those precious hours of sleep. Stress from the workplace and an always-on lifestyle can lead to nights spent tossing and turning, searching for elusive slumber.

What the experts say:

The Sleep Charity highlights the impact of work stress on sleep, emphasising the importance of rest for employee well-being. They suggest strategies such as establishing a relaxing pre-sleep routine and ensuring a sleep-conducive environment to combat the pressures that come with professional life.

As we age, the need for quality sleep doesn’t diminish; if anything, it becomes more critical.

Amid the hustle of getting older and the pursuit of career and personal goals, finding time to unwind and disconnect can seem like a luxury. Yet, it’s essential for maintaining our productivity and wellbeing.

Incorporating mindful practices into our evening routines, seeking moments of calm in the chaos of the day and prioritising . Adulthood’s sleep journey is about recognising the value of rest and making concerted efforts to guard it against life’s inevitable demands.

Magnesium is proven to have a quality impact on sleep health

Sleep during menopause: weathering the change

Menopause marks a significant shift not just in the body’s reproductive system but in many other aspects, including sleep. Many women find that their once uninterrupted nights become fragmented, courtesy of hot flushes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms. It’s a time when the phrase “a good night’s sleep” might start to sound like a myth.

What the experts say:

Women’s Health Concern sheds light on this issue, noting that sleep disturbances are common during menopause, affecting overall sleep quality and patterns. They recommend practical steps for managing these disruptions, such as maintaining a cool, comfortable sleeping environment and establishing a consistent bedtime routine.

As we navigate this phase, understanding that these changes are a normal part of ageing can be comforting. Seeking out strategies to mitigate sleep disturbances becomes key. This might include lifestyle adjustments or exploring treatments that can ease menopausal symptoms, thus improving sleep.

The journey through menopause is unique for every woman, but it’s crucial to remember that this transition, whilst challenging, can be managed with the right support and interventions. Prioritising sleep during this time not only helps in coping with menopause but also supports overall health and well-being.

Sleep in senior years: ensuring quality rest

When you step into your ‌senior years, you are faced with many changes, especially when it comes to sleep. As we age, our sleep patterns can shift, leading to earlier bedtimes, more frequent nighttime awakenings and sometimes lighter sleep overall. These changes are a natural part of ageing, yet they underscore the importance of focusing on sleep quality to maintain health and well-being.

Adjusting daily routines can make a significant difference. Incorporating regular physical activity, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime ritual are key strategies. Additionally, ensuring the bedroom environment supports sleep, with comfortable bedding and minimal noise and light, can help enhance sleep quality.

What the experts say:

Age UK emphasises the connection between sleep and brain health, highlighting that good sleep habits are crucial for cognitive function in later life. They advise against consuming caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime and recommend establishing a soothing pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.

Understanding and adapting to these sleep changes can pave the way for restful nights and energetic days in our later years. By embracing good sleep practices and seeking advice when needed, we can all aim for quality rest as an integral part of healthy ageing.

Our recommendations

Our Kari Health experts recommend the following steps for improved sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine late at night and limit it during the day
  • Find a consistent sleep schedule that involves a relaxing routine
  • Have a warm bath/shower prior to bed
  • Stretch, meditate, or practice breathing exercises
  • Get a nightlight
  • Read a book
  • Turn off electronics 1 hour prior to sleep
  • Exercise
  • Don’t work in bed
  • Download helpful resources such as the calm app or write down your worries before bed

Final thoughts on sleep and age

Wrapping up our journey through sleep’s vital role across life’s stages, we’ve seen how each period brings its own challenges and solutions. From the growth-focused sleep of youth, through the stress-related disturbances of adulthood, to the lighter rest of our senior years, adapting our sleep habits is crucial for maintaining health and vitality.

Our expertly curated blogs offer insights into a healthier lifestyle, providing you with practical advice for every chapter of your life.

At Kari, we’re here to empower you with knowledge and tools for a balanced and healthy life.

This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

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