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Health and Wellbeing

Sleeping Well and Feeling Energised as You Get Older

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

15th June, 2023

Morning stretch

While I don’t want to scare you, it can be helpful to be aware of how ageing can impact your sleep. Perhaps most importantly, it is good to learn about the strategies and routines that you can adopt to give yourself a good chance of getting good rest and a deep sleep and we are here to help you do that!

First of all, how much sleep do you need as you get older?

It is a common misconception that you need less sleep as you get older compared to younger people. There may be times when you have a harder time getting the sleep you need, but it doesn’t mean you need less sleep. In general, you should still be aiming to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. However, researchers estimate that between 40% and 70% of older adults have chronic sleep issues and up to half of cases may be undiagnosed chronic sleep problems that can significantly interfere with older adults’ daily activities and reduce their quality of life. There are several sleep issues that are especially common in older individuals.


Discomfort and pain can lead to inadequate rest for some older adults. Pain and sleeplessness can become a vicious cycle, in which less sleep can lead to more pain. It is important to talk to your doctor if pain is interfering with your sleep.

Night-time urination

Night-time urination, also called nocturia can increase with age due to physical changes in the urinary system and other factors. This issue may affect up to 80% of older people, contributing to increased sleep disruptions.

Daytime drowsiness

Many people believe that feeling tired during the day is a normal part of getting older, but this is not the case. Around 20% of older people experience excessive daytime sleepiness which may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Excessive daytime sleepiness in older adults may be a symptom of health issues like sleep apnoea, cognitive impairment, or cardiovascular issues.

Sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea can cause pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses are related to the upper airway collapsing or narrowing. Sleep apnoea causes fragmented sleep and can affect oxygen levels in the body, leading to headaches, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty in thinking clearly.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome affects 9% to 20% of older people. RLS causes an urge to move the legs while resting or sleeping.

Tired woman

REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder

REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) primarily affects older people. While most people’s bodies do not move while they are dreaming, this disorder can cause people to physically act out their dreams, sometimes violently.

Advanced sleep-wake phase disorder occurs more in older populations. This may lead to falling asleep early at night and waking several hours too early.

There are other potential contributors as well. Chronic pain can impact sleep quality. Many other seemingly unrelated medical conditions from heart failure to Parkinson’s disease to stroke that occur more among the aged, can likewise impact sleep quality.

If your problems persist, consider speaking with your doctor for further evaluation and treatment options. In some cases, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be helpful to teach skills that can enhance sleep. Sometimes a sleep study may be important to identify sleep apnoea and other conditions that may be undermining sleep.

Now while this might all seem a bit depressing – at the end of the day (excuse the pun) if you invest in your self-care and work on creating good habits you will get the rest you need. Don’t forget that our adjustable beds will also help as they provide the conditions and sleep positions for optimal rest.

A Sleep Toolkit

On a very positive note, research has shown that older people really can take steps to improve their sleep. These steps often involve focusing on developing solid daily habits that enable you to get the restorative sleep that you deserve.

So, let’s get practical…

Elderly individual hiking


Older people who exercise regularly tend to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and report better quality of sleep. Exercise is one of the best things older people can do for their health. Tai chi, yoga and chi kung can be particularly helpful for maintaining strength, flexibility and helping you sleep optimally.

Reduce bedroom distractions

Televisions, smartphones, and bright lights can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Keep the television in another room and try not to fall asleep with it turned on. Move your electronics out of the bedroom and reserve the bedroom for only resting and intimacy.

Practice relaxation techniques and resting

It is normal to wake during the night – we all do this! What isn’t helpful is to keep yourself awake by constantly checking the time and then worrying about not getting enough sleep. Here’s a suggestion for you that really works – when you wake up (not if) get up if you need to go to the bathroom, get back into bed and focus on resting. In fact, you can even say to yourself ‘I’m now just going to rest’. Get comfortable and focus on your breathing. Follow the innnnn and outtttt of your breath and allow this to guide you into a peaceful and restful state.

Avoid substances that discourage sleep

Substances like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and even large meals late in the day can make sleep more challenging. Consider quitting smoking, reducing caffeine intake, and eating dinner at least four hours before bedtime.

Keep a regular sleep schedule

Aging can make it more difficult to recover from lost sleep. Avoid sudden changes in sleep schedules. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Avoid spending extra time in bed as this will only worsen the quality of your sleep.

Avoid over-napping

We understand that you might feel like taking a longer nap if you haven’t slept so well the night before but avoid the trap of over-napping during the day. This will just create a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep at night. Napping during the day – in your Oak Tree rise and recline chair – is allowed but keep it short and sweet and avoid those long naps in front of the TV. If you think you’re getting too comfy and are likely to fall asleep, adjust your recliner and sit more upright or even get up and go for a walk to pick your energy levels up. Remember, being active will help you sleep better at night.

Make the most of natural daylight

Try to fix your wake time so that you get out of bed and get 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight as soon as you wake up. This will optimise your circadian cycle. This is the cycle that controls your sleep and wakefulness periods and helps you to produce more melatonin at night.

Finally, here’s a tip that might surprise and – hopefully – reassure you. Do you know that it is possible to be asleep and not even know that you are asleep?! It is even possible to sleep with your eyes open! For example, you might do this when watching TV and you get to the end of the detective programme and have no idea what happened even though you thought you were watching it with your eyes fully open. Or you read a book and then have to go back and read the same pages again the next night - you were asleep (with your eyes open) while you were reading! You might be underestimating how much sleep you’re actually getting which just creates more anxiety and tiredness, so try not to worry about it as this will only worsen the problem. Focus on resting and doing as much as you can to enjoy life and stay well.

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