Two experts share their thoughts on how many Zs a day you need to get.
Quality sleep is important for good health. Is it true we can function on a little sleep? More information about the product As we age, do we sleep less? Chatelaine We asked two sleep experts to explain how our needs change over time and how we can continue to catch quality Zs, regardless of our age.
Sleeping less as you age?
The popular belief is true: While getting larger amounts of sleep is certainly important for most of one’s early years, sleeping less as you get older is completely normal and healthy. Our experts say that most adults between the ages of 26 and 64 require seven to nine sleep hours every night. Once you reach 65, this number drops to seven to eight. It then steadily decreases by an hour every ten years after 65, depending upon your health and activity level.
Dr. Arina bingeliene is a sleep neurology specialist in Toronto. She says that older adults need less sleep for a variety of reasons. “The metabolism slows down and [older adults] are no longer developing and growing,” she says. “We’re not creating new neuron connections in our brain, but functioning on less available neurons instead because of the normal aging process. All of this requires less energy over time, which is why we need less sleep.”
That’s why, Bingeliene adds, older adults need less deep, restorative (REM) sleep: Their bodies don’t require these intense and long periods of time to regenerate larger amounts of lost energy.
As you get older, is it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep?
It can be difficult to find the time for enough sleep. According to our experts this problem persists, and can even worsen as we age. Sleep problems can be caused by age-related issues like sleep apnea or general bodily discomfort. You may find that you need less sleep, but getting good sleep can be a challenge.
Related: All The (New) Reasons You Aren’t Sleeping—And How To Fix Them
Alice Gregory, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London and author of Nodding off: The Science of Sleep From Cradle to GraveAccording to, there may also be an evolutionary explanation for why we find it harder to sleep as we age. Since sleep was seen as a vulnerable period in history, one group member would usually stay up and guard the other members. “The idea is that if we all sleep at different times, someone is always awake and able to watch over the group,” she says. “Older adults take on this role early in the morning for example.”
Tips for getting a better night’s sleep
Bingeliene, Gregory and others agree that getting enough rest is essential to a healthy, long life.
In addition to adhering to the usual best sleep practices, such as not eating a lot right before bed and sleeping in a dark room, both of our experts also say that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is critical to getting the best night’s rest possible. “Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps to support our internal rhythms,” says Gregory.
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Bingeliene recommends creating as relaxing of an environment as possible before going to bed—which involves not using your computer or phone for at least half an hour before you fall asleep. “There’s the stimulating effect from the bright screens but then there’s also the stimulation from the content,” she says. Bingeliene especially stresses the importance of not doing anything work-related before bed as it puts your brain into “working mode” and will make it harder for you to get good rest.
Both of our experts agree that taking naps should be avoided at all costs. “Naps offer many advantages,” says Gregory, “but if you are struggling to sleep at night, you might consider avoiding daytime naps, which can make it even more difficult to nod off at night.”