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Combat Sleep Changes as You Age

By Rachel Carver

Infants can sleep as many as 17 hours each day. In contrast, most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to feel rested. Our sleep requirements shift as we age. Our circadian rhythm, which influences when we feel awake and tired, also changes.

Changing lifestyles also impact sleep. People with demanding jobs or an intense exercise regimen might need more sleep to fully recover. Aging impact sleep, and your sleep quality impacts health conditions such as heart disease and weight gain. It is important to understand how sleep changes as you get older.

How Does Aging Affect Sleep?

People often find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep as they get older. They also wake up more frequently during the night. Sleep time decreases, even if the time in bed does not.

The National Sleep Foundation states our circadian rhythm shifts as we age, causing us to get tired earlier in the day. As a result, adults typically spend more time in the lighter sleep stages. However, older adults still need 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Aging Sleep Changes

People in their 20s usually stay up later and may even struggle to function early in the morning. Younger people can function better on less sleep, though this becomes harder when you turn 30. People in their 30s usually want to sleep more, but this is unfortunately when total sleep time begins to decrease.

Demanding jobs and family life tend to structure our routines in our 30s and 40s. These items can sometimes get in the way of us getting the sleep we need. Studies show we lose about 10 minutes of sleep each night per decade. We lose about 2 percent of deep sleep each night per decade until age 60, when the loss plateaus.

Some Sleep Hygiene Tips

All of this information seems depressing. But there are some things you can do to make sure the sleep you do gives you the rest you need.

Set a to-do list before bedtime - Writing down all of your to-dos before bed can clear your mind and help you relax.

Stay up until you are sleepy - Waiting to hit the sack until you are actually sleepy can help you avoid long periods of tossing and turning. You don't want to associate your bed with feelings of frustration.

Wear glasses - Avoiding the blue light from electronics that interferes with your circadian rhythm before bed is not always realistic. To combat this, wear some blue-light-blocking glasses a few hours before shut-eye.

Try a visual exercise - Imagine you have a parking lot for everything in your mind. Park the mental load there, and tell yourself you will not pick it up again until the next morning.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Jacksonville, Fla.

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