Do Older People Really Need Less Sleep?
February 24, 2021
There is lots written about the importance of sleep. Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, is well worth a read if this topic is of interest. The National Institute on Aging in the US have busted one myth for me – that older people need less sleep! They advise that 7-9 hours is still the requirement for healthy ageing but may be tougher to actually achieve due to various factors such as medication which may disturb sleep, pain, temperature increases or an annoying bladder!
A recent article in the Huffington Post sourced a number of different studies suggested poor sleep could lead to you to being:
- Hungrier and apt to eat more
- More likely to have an accident
- Not at your best – or your most approachable
- More likely to catch cold
- More likely to lose brain tissue
- More emotional
- Less focused and having memory problems
- At higher risk of death
- Lower in sperm count
- At increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
- At higher risk of some cancers
- More likely to experience obesity
- At much higher risk of stroke
I have always been a really good sleeper until quite recently. The last few months of restless sleep have flagged to me that sleep has to be a focus as my memory and energy levels are definitely being impacted. So I have taken a dive into an area which was previously not on my agenda – kind of like oxygen – you don’t really think about it until you aren’t getting enough!!!
A couple of months ago I bought an Oura ring (disclosure – I have no affiliation with this brand). My aim was to help monitor things like sleep, heart rate, exercise, recovery time, body temperature etc. So now I am wearing a little computer on my finger and it even comes in the shower and the pool with me! (The NBA in the US have purchased 2000 of these little smart rings for their players.)
One of the things I am using it for is to measure the quality of my sleep now that it is changing. My reading and discussions with my GP, suggest that while everyone is different, a ball park guide as to the breakdown of type of sleep in a night is:
Light Sleep: 50-60%
Deep Sleep: 10-25%
REM sleep: 20-25%
So how do I shape up???? Here is last night…………
While the Oura data does not include awake time in the overall, if I do include it my percentages are clearly off. Also, while much I have read suggests we are often not aware of the awake time as it is so short, annoyingly I am very definitely conscious in most of the above awake times.
So, while I am still exploring how I can improve this decline in my sleep quality, I personally do not agree that one needs less sleep as one gets older. My mother, in her 80s, is a fabulous sleeper, easily getting her 8-9 hours a night. I aspire to get back there soon!