When Carol Gee turned 55, she made a new boyfriend: 4am. She used to sleep soundly. But as soon as she entered menopause, it became her new wake-up time. "I would go to sleep and wake up at the same time every morning, almost as you set the clock," says Gee, who is now 68 years old.
She is not the only older adult who has experienced a shattering shift while sleeping bicycles. A national survey conducted by the University of Michigan in 2017 found that 46 percent of adults aged 65 and over have trouble falling asleep regularly.
As humans age, the body changes in all predictable ways. Stiffen joints. Brains can slow down. Wounds take longer to heal. And also the sleep patterns change. This may be news to many, says Michael V. Vitiello, a psychologist at the University of Washington who specializes in sleep in old age.
The most obvious ̵
The most common shift is the tendency to ascend with (or before) the birds. Circadian rhythm researchers refer to it as "morning mood" and have discovered that this is not surprisingly the case, as people prefer bedtime sleep earlier with age. Scientists have documented the changes in the circadian rhythm that occur with age, but they are still learning why they occur, says Vitiello. Older adults take longer to fall asleep, and they wake up more often. They tend to spend less time in the deepest sleep phases than younger adults, and they also get less rapid eye movement sleep. While the exact purpose of REM sleep is still unclear, it seems important for memory and learning. Less restful sleep at night can cause you to take a nap during the day. (As long as the naps are not so long that they fall asleep at night, they are considered part of a normal sleep pattern.)
But not every troubled night is benign. Studies have shown that poor sleep can present a particular threat to the elderly: falls, depression and anxiety, memory problems and increased risk of suicide are among the effects of sleep problems in this population group, researchers have found.
Some sleep disorders – REM sleep behavior disorder, in which people live vivid dreams, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder, which causes a mismatch between a desired bedtime and the sleep interest of the body, and sleep apnea, which causes breathing Repeating sleep repeatedly involves an increased risk for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and dementia.
But as with changes in sleep architecture and timing, scientists still do not know why these risk associations exist. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California's San Francisco School of Medicine specializing in dementia, warns that there are more questions than answers when it comes to dementia and sleep.
"People with dementia tend not to sleep well," she said. Do insomnia actually lead to dementia? Sometimes that's hard to annoy. "
In a study published in the journal Sleep in 2017, researchers found that people with sleep disorders had a 1.68-fold higher risk of cognitive impairment and / or Alzheimer's than people without sleep disorders. However, as the researchers clarified, it could not be determined whether sleep disorders are a cause of dementia or just a symptom of dementia.
Clear is the connection between good sleep and mental well-being in older adults. A study from 2010 documented this association when she came to sleep quality but the amount of sleep did not show the same effects.
And in it, experts say, the key to understanding sleep is as you get older. If you sleep less but have no negative impact on the bed, the changes you notice may only be age related. If you notice a sudden change in your sleep, or a poor or inadequate sleep interferes with everyday life, changes your personality, or tells your bedtime that you stop breathing when snoring, this could be a sign of something more serious and worth visiting.
Sometimes it's just an attempt to find sleep. 81-year-old Florine Salierno found that years of experimenting with over-the-counter products like melatonin did not help her insomnia, and she did not appreciate the various medications she was prescribed. Now she follows her doctor's suggestion to meditate if she can not fall asleep again. Salierno may feel upset or even depressed by a sleepless night, but most of the time she tries not to disturb it.
Which agrees with the statements of the researchers. Our body changes over the years and it is normal for sleep to change as well.
"Over time I think of tissue," says Vitiello. "Can you run the 100 yard dash or the 100 meter Dash as fast as you could when you were 18?"
Over time, sleep behavior changes easily. "Many older people realize that they do not sleep as they did at the age of 18, but they still work and are fine. And everything is fine with the universe.