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[ARTICLE] Sleep and Aging
Filed Under: Wellness | Published: Feb 20, 2018 | Author: Tuck Sleep
A survey of adults over the age of 65 by the National Institutes of Health also found that 13% of men and 28% of women require more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

All sleep disorders fall under one of two general categories.  Dyssomnias refer to any condition that either causes severe drowsiness or affects one's ability to fall or stay asleep: examples fo dyssomnia incluse insomnia and sleep apnea.  Parasomnias, on the other hand, are disorders characterized by inappropriate or irregular behaviors that occur during sleep, such as sleepwaling and night terrors. 

Insomnia is defined as habitual sleepiness, or the inability to experience restorative sleep on a nightly basis.  Insomnia is an issue for nearly half of all adults in the U.S. over the age of 60.  The most common symptoms associated with nsomnia in older people include the following:

  • Taking at least 30 to 45 minutes to fall asleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night on multiple occasions
  • Waking up at a relatively early hour and being unable to fall back asleep
  • Feeling exhausted and unproductive the following day

One common problem among seniors is difficulty with thermoregulation, or the body's ability to control and maintain a healthy core temperature.  Thermoregulation can affect sleep architecture, since body temperture plays a key role in our sleep patterns:  a person tends to wake up in the morning when his/her temperature rises, and will usually begin feeling tired aroung bedtime as his/her temperature declines. Loss of thermoregulation can cause body temperature to fall out of sleep with the circadian rhythm.  This process, knows as circadian desynchronization, can put people at risk for insomnia and other sleep-onset issues, as well as hypothermia and hyperthermia during certain times of the year.

Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders have been linked to insomnia, as well.  However, it is currently unclear whether these disorders directly cause insomnia, or vice versa.

Bad sleeping habits can also exacerbate the effects of insomnia. Elderly adults especially those who are retired are more likely to take daytime naps.  Older individuals also spend more time in bed compared to younger people, and tend to rise at early or irregular times.  All of these habits can significantly alter one's sleep architecture.

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Tags: sleep, aging, changes

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