Daniel Leffingwell MS, RN

March 18 2017




 What is sleep?


Two Types of Sleep

There are two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement -- or NREM sleep -- and rapid eye movement -- or REM sleep. NREM sleep includes four stages, ranging from light to deep sleep. Then we go into REM sleep, the most active stage of sleep when dreaming often occurs. During REM sleep, the eyes move back and forth beneath the eyelids and muscles become immobile. We cycle through the NREM-REM stages of sleep approximately every 90 minutes.

How Sleep is Regulated

Researchers believe that two body systems -- the sleep-wake process and our circadian biologic clock -- regulate our sleep. They program our bodies to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day.

The sleep-wake process works by balancing the amount of sleep a person needs based on the time spent awake. Our circadian biologic clock is a 24-hour body rhythm affected by sunlight. It regulates hormones such as melatonin, which is secreted during the night and promotes sleep, and other processes like body temperature. Sleeping at a time that is in sync with this rhythm is important for healthy sleep.5


How much sleep do we need?

Nearly half of men and women over the age of 65 say they have at least one sleep problem. With age, many people get insomnia or have other sleep disorders.

It’s true that as we get older, our sleep patterns change. In general, older people sleep less, wake up and go back to sleep more often, and spend less time in deep sleep or dreaming than younger people. 1,2,3

As we age, we may notice some of the following:


 Good night tips

·        Review your medications and supplements with your doctor or pharmacist and consider changes to their use that could be affecting sleep quality.

·        Stop drinking fluids within two hours of bedtime to minimize trips to the bathroom.

·        If pain keeps you awake at night, talk to your doctor to see if taking an over-the-counter pain medication before bed may help. While this may not stop you from waking up, you may have an easier time falling back to sleep.

·        Keep your sleep environment as dark as possible. This includes limiting lights from the television, computer screen and mobile devices. Light disrupts your body's natural sleep rhythm.

·        Limit caffeine intake, particularly in the eight hours before bedtime.

·        Avoid alcohol near bedtime — alcohol may help you fall asleep, but once it wears off, it makes you more likely to wake up in the night.

·        To maintain a quality sleep cycle, limit daytime napping to just 10 to 20 minutes. If you find that daytime naps make you less sleepy at bedtime, avoid napping altogether.

·        If you have trouble falling asleep, try taking 1 to 2 milligrams of melatonin (look for the sustained-release tablets) about two hours before bed.

·         Take a warm bath. When you get out of the tub, the drop in body temperature may help you feel tired. It can also help you relax and slow down, so you’re more ready to go to bed.

·         Take time to calm down before you turn out the lights. Turn off your electronic devices and TV an hour before bed. You can read a book, listen to music -- whatever helps you unwind.

·         Make the bedroom a sleep zone. If you're still awake 20 minutes after you hit the sack, get up. Get back in bed only when you feel tired enough. Train yourself to think of the bed as a place for sleeping only.

·         Avoid afternoon naps. If you sleep during the day, you're more likely to stay awake at night. 3



 Sleeping and aging




What Causes Sleep Problems With Age?

Some common reasons include:

Poor sleep habits: If you don’t keep a steady schedule for going to bed and waking up, it can affect your body’s internal clock and make it even harder to get good sleep. Also, at any age, it’s a minus if you drink alcohol before bedtime, nap too much, or stay in bed when you’re not sleeping.


Medical problems and sleep



Many prescription and nonprescription drugs can cause sleep problems. The severity of sleep problems caused by a drug will vary from person to person.

Prescription drugs that may cause sleep problems include:

The following nonprescription drugs can cause sleep problems:

·         Alcohol often is thought of as a sedative or calming drug. While alcohol may induce sleep, the quality of sleep is often fragmented during the second half of the sleep period. Alcohol increases the number of times you awaken in the later half of the night, when the alcohol's relaxing effect wears off. It prevents you from getting the deep sleep and REM sleep you need, because alcohol keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.

·         With continued consumption just before bedtime, alcohol's sleep-inducing effect may decrease as its disruptive effects continue or increase. The sleep disruption resulting from alcohol use may lead to daytime fatigue and sleepiness. The elderly are at particular risk for alcohol-related sleep disorders, because they achieve higher levels of alcohol in the blood and brain than do younger adults after consuming an equivalent dose. Bedtime alcohol consumption among older adults may lead to unsteadiness if walking is attempted during the night, with increased risk of falls and injuries.

Why Older Adults Sleep Less

As we age, our bodies change. These changes impact the length and quality of our sleep. Depending on your situation, one of more of these factors may apply:


 What else—Questions?


Many older adults yearn for a restorative sleep, or the ability to sleep through the night and to awake with a feeling of being refreshed.  Gradual, subtle, age related changes affect the nervous system which in turn, interferes with the ability to sleep throughout the night.  The intention of this program is to present the “Whys” and the “How to’s” for individuals to experience an improved sleep.  Discussion centers on the effects of medications that interfere with sleep, and on modifying bedtime and sleep rituals and patterns.




1.       Healthy Aging: How Sleep Changes With Aging

2.         Sleep and Aging

3.       8 ways to improve sleep quality as you age

4.         How to Sleep Better as You Get Older

5.       Sleep and Aging

6.       Insomnia: Symptoms and Causes