Why Does Good Sleep Decline With Age?

(Last Updated On: August 11, 2017)


Apart from all the physical changes your body undergoes, age brings with it altered sleeping patterns as well. With age, it gets relatively difficult falling asleep as well as getting sound sleep through the course of the night than when you were young. One common notion among the masses is that the need for sleep reduces as you age. However, this is far from the truth; in fact research states that your sleep needs stay pretty much the same all throughout your life, irrespective of your age.


So what is it that is keeping the elderly awake?

The answer to this is embedded in what researchers describe as ‘sleep architecture’, or the pattern of your sleep. Changes to this ‘sleep architecture’ are a subset of aging that one often has to deal with. Sleep is characterized by stages that comprise of periods of light slumber as well as deep sleep and the other stage that is characterized by frequent dreaming, also known as REM sleep. Apart from the dreaming aspect of it, the REM stage is marked by increased body movements, rapid movements of the eye and a faster breath rate and pulse. Now, this entire cycle repeats itself through the night and while the total sleeping time usually remains constant, it is the REM stage of sleep where the seniors often fall short on. As a result, complaints of unsatisfactory night time snooze and increased tiredness during the day become typical of old age. Sleep fragmentation (when you repeatedly wake up through the course of the night) is often reported as well.


Primarily, psychiatric and physical afflictions have been attributed to the lack of sound sleep during old age. Another determinant of sleep is the body’s circadian rhythm that governs the various body functions. To cite an example, older people start feeling tired and sleepy from the evening and wake up in the morning earlier than their younger counterparts. This is referred to as the ‘advanced sleep phase’ syndrome.



The incidence of insomnia is higher among the elderly. This condition can either be acute (that continues for days or a few weeks) or chronic (that lasts beyond a month or even more) and an underlying psychiatric or physical condition could be at the root of it.

Insomnia, depending upon its severity, can affect you in ways more than one. While mild cases of insomnia can be kept in check by cutting down on the intake of caffeine and living an overall better quality of life, severe cases might warrant prescribed medications and other behavioral therapies, be it in unison or separately.


Snoring, that is one of the major reasons for disrupted sleep, becomes more rampant with excessive weight and increasing age. Loud and persistent snoring, in particular could be symptomatic of OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea). This physiological condition is related to a high blood pressure count and a myriad of other health issues.

OSA (more common among the different types of sleep apnea) is a condition wherein the throat muscles continuously obstruct and relax the air passage, causing disrupted breathing that pauses from time to time. If not treated on time, obstructive sleep apnea could result in cardio-vascular distress, loss of memory, headaches and depression.


Though rare, it is a condition that is marked by an almost pulling and irresistible urge to move the feet while lying down or sitting up straight. This condition, that typically occurs post sunset, can grow worse as the night progresses and hinder sleep.

As you age, the chances of many chronic health conditions increase simultaneously. Lack of sound sleep can certainly be the result of such chronic afflictions. For example, while snoring and OSA are common signs of hypertension, heart failure is connected to OSA as well.


  1. Menopause: The accompanying alterations in breathing pattern, fluctuations in the hormone levels and hot flashes are the common culprits.
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease
  4. Diabetes
  5. Asthma and other respiratory disorders
  6. Kidney failure
  7. Auto-immune disorders
  8. Multiple Sclerosis
  9. Neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease

Portea brings to you diagnostic test package which include Sleep study along with free CPAP titration for 2 days for sleep related disorders and management of obstructive sleep apnea. With Portea, you can rent or buy a variety of sleep therapy equipment.

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Dr Rahul has Masters in Maxillofacial Surgery with an overall experience of six years. Since the last 2 years, he is working in the Medical operations team of Portea. An Alumni of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health and Science, he has previously worked with Nationwide- The Family Doctors while as their Chief Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon and Implantologist. He has a special interest in Facial Trauma Surgery, Dental Implantology and Facial aesthetic surgery. It is not only medicine that fascinates Rahul. He is a die-hard sports enthusiast with a strong passion for Football, Basketball, and Cricket and occasionally strums the guitar, too.


  1. Thanks for the great post! Sleep is of the issues that a lot of seniors face, and your blog contains a useful advice that can help them. -Nicky

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