The Importance of Sleep at All Ages

The Importance of Sleep at all Ages - Breathing and Sleep Center copy

It has long been thought by most people that older people don’t need as much sleep as younger people do, presumably because they are less active and don’t get as tired from the day’s exertions. It’s true that older people often experience an inability to fall asleep, with 13% of older men taking 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, while 36% of older women need at least 30 minutes to fall asleep.

Once they do fall asleep, older people are more prone to hearing distractions that wake them up, getting up to go to the bathroom, and encountering other things that put them in a position where they are not able to stay asleep. Overall, more older people develop sleep issues and don’t get the restorative sleep they need at night. This can lead to a whole slew of health issues, including memory problems, depression, daytime sleepiness, and ultimately greater use of medicinal sleep aids.

Importance of sleep 

It would be hard to overstate the importance of sleep in everyone’s life, and the more scientific research which is done, the more it becomes obvious that the kind of quality sleep which is known as restorative sleep is a must for everyone, to prevent slow damage to the brain itself. For both young adults and those over 65, at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep should be standard for all individuals. Youngsters require even more sleep than this, but adults should get no less than seven hours each night.

A healthy individual will generally fall into a sleep pattern characterized by 60-90 minutes of light sleep, after which the first Rapid Eye Movement (REM) period will begin, and for most people will last about 10-15 minutes. Each time this alternating pattern occurs, the REM period is extended, until the last one of the night lasts an hour or more.

During REM, your brain undergoes a burst of activity, and is associated with intense dreaming which can be particularly vivid. Fortunately, the brain immobilizes most muscles during REM so that you don’t act out on your dreams and hurt yourself. When the body completes a normal healthy night of sleep, there will have been several REM stages and several non-REM stages, which altogether should add up to a quality sleep night.

Problems with poor sleep 

For people both young and old, the problems associated with inadequate sleep can trigger serious health issues. The parts of the brain which tend to deteriorate earliest are those which are involved with promoting deep sleep in people, and with the transfer of short-term memories to the part of the brain where they would be stored as long-term memories.

There are also other issues which can result from inadequate sleep, such as heart problems, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, stress, and depression. For all these reasons, individuals who have difficulty sleeping should consult with their family physician, so as to do whatever is possible to again achieve restorative sleep, and to ward off potential health problems.

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