Sleep and Aging

More than half of all Americans over the age of 65 suffer from sleep loss, but it's a myth to think that sleep problems are an inescapable part of growing old. Researchers stress, in fact, that the sleep problems of seniors are not the result of the aging process, but the effect of ailments that occur along the way. Such common age-related conditions as arthritis, respiratory problems, inactivity, anxiety and depression can make sleep difficult, they say. So can certain prescription drugs.

The sleep situation of seniors is complicated further by the fact that as we age, our circadian rhythms shift: We get sleepy earlier in the evenings and wake earlier in the mornings. If we don't adjust to this shift, more sleep problems can ensue.

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Experts also reject the myth that we need less sleep as we grow older. Our need for sleep is constant, and if Grandma's nodding off over her knitting, it's not because she's 85, it's because she's not getting enough rest at night.

These myths about the sleep of seniors are so firmly entrenched, even among seniors themselves, that they often blind people to the help that's available. The bottom line — everyone, no matter what their age — is entitled to a good night's sleep.

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