As a person ages various changes physical and emotional occur, including changes in sleep patterns. The myth that one needs less sleep as they age is untrue. A person’s sleep needs remain the same throughout adulthood. There are multiple stages to sleep, dreamless periods of light and deep sleep, and periods of active dreaming sleep called REM.
There are many factors that may be the cause of these changes. Sleep studies of older Americans show an increased amount of time it takes to fall asleep and a decreased amount of time spent in REM, also more waking up thru the night.
The circadian rhythms that coordinate the timing of body functions, including sleep also changes with age. This change can be seen in older people by their need to fall asleep earlier in the evening, and then waking up earlier in the morning. The cause for the change in the circadian rhythm is believed to have a connection to light exposure but this theory has not been proven.
As one ages there are increased medical problems some often chronic which dictates the increase of medications taken. Poor health, medical conditions, and increase in medications are also contributing factors leading to sleep disruption.
Elderly persons stand a greater chance of suffering from sleep apnea, snoring, RLS, PLMD, and GERD. Insomnia also tends to increase with age. Reducing caffeine intake and taking a midday nap may alleviate some of these problems, however if the symptom persists there could be an underlying medical problem that needs medical attention. (NSF.2012.Web)
In conclusion, as one ages one can not only look forward to wrinkles, gray hair, depend diapers, loss of hearing, and hair, but also sleep deprivation.
National Sleep Foundation.(2012)http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep retrieved 20 February 2012