Catching up on ZZZZ’s: How Seniors Can Readjust Their Sleep Patterns

As we age, our sleep patterns change – but not the amount of sleep necessary to function at your best. While eight hours is the average recommended number for most adults, it can be a struggle for some seniors to get that amount in one block of time. 

Your sleep pattern can positively and negatively affect your health in ways that can be surprising. From fall prevention to general well-being, getting a good amount of solid slumber time can make a big difference. That’s what National Sleep Awareness Week plans to promote this March 10-16: Begin With Sleep. It’s also a focus of World Sleep Day on March 15. 

How much sleep do you need? 

It’s recommended that the average senior get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day. However, according to, adults over 65 have stated they need more than 30 minutes to actually fall asleep before getting to that quality rest phase. That could be due to sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, pain from arthritis, having to get up multiple times a night to urinate, or even side effects of certain medications. This is one of the reasons the time you go to bed shouldn’t be calculated as actual sleep time. The body also produces fewer chemicals and hormones – including melatonin – as you age. That can affect your sleeping habits. 

Dr. Lim Li Ling, a consultant neurologist for the Singapore Neurology & Sleep Centers at Gleneagles Medical Centre, notes that seniors who only sleep 4 to 5 hours per night can make up some shut-eye by taking multiple naps during the day. 

Why is sleep so important? 

Without an adequate amount of sleep, your well-being and health can be at risk. When you sleep, you are regenerating cells, recharging your body and also cleaning your blood through circulation. Sleep is a vital part of our day-to-day lives. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you can become prone to illnesses, experience balance issues and even experience an increase in falls and accidents. Seniors are more prone to develop depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, loss of appetite and weight gain when they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. 

Tips on how seniors can sleep better 

You can change your sleeping habits and better your health. From simply maintaining a schedule to changing what you eat or drink before bed, you can directly affect your sleep patterns and get a good night’s rest. Among some suggestions are: 

  • Go to bed and wake up the same time each day, including weekends.
  • Avoid reading, watching TV or eating in bed.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine eight hours before bedtime.
  • Drinking alcohol and smoking before bed may help you fall asleep, but those vices can also wake you up in the middle of the night.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Ask your doctor how any medications you’re taking may affect your sleeping patterns and if they are keeping you awake. 
  • Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D.

If you’re experiencing sleep disorders that are keeping you awake or affecting your sleep patterns, make sure to discuss this with your doctor. Sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder or insomnia can be addressed and likely corrected. 

If you’re not sleeping because of chronic pain, there are several things you can try to align and support your body for a more comfortable night’s rest. That includes using pillows, sleeping in a reclining chair and the position in which you sleep. 

Pairs of seniors playing a game of chess
Pairs of seniors playing a game of chess

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