How Sleep Patterns Change as We Age

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, or have noticed a change in your sleep patterns, you may be surprised to learn that it’s most likely due to your age.  As we age, our sleep patterns are affected by the changes that go in the body.  Throughout our lives, our sleep patterns change based on what stage of life we are at, and each stage has it’s own characteristics. From Early Infancy to Preschool  As many new parents find out, newborns aren’t born with a fully functional biological clock, which means that they don’t have a regular sleeping schedule.  A newborn baby will sleep anywhere from 11-18 hours each day, and are often only awake when they are being fed or changed.  Most infants begin sleeping through the night around six months of age. Toddlers start to sleep more from ages 1-3.  This is the typical age for kids to start experiencing bedtime issues, such as being resistant to going to sleep, having nightmares or waking up during the night.  Preschoolers, or kids who aged 3-5, begin sleeping slightly less than before, and may start to develop other types of sleep issues as well. Young Children and Teens [caption id="attachment_156" align="alignleft" width="300"]Child Sleeping Our sleep needs change as we age. Children and infants require more sleep than mature adults.[/caption] As kids begin a rapid stage of development between age 6 and on through puberty, sleep patterns start to shape into how they will be when the child is an adult. This is the time in life where sleep comes easily thanks to the increase in melatonin that occurs.  For many kids, it’s also a time where outside influences and extra curricular activities may affect their sleeping habits, with things like school and sports forcing teen to get up early and stay up later. In general, teens need around 9-10 hours of sleep, which can be tough when they are balancing school, a job and other activities.  Teen also have a different biological clock when they are in this intense period of development, which may keep them up late at night, even when they have school early in the morning. Adulthood and Later in Life It’s common to have trouble falling asleep as you get older and to also have an increase in the number of times you wake up at night.  This leads to sleep being less beneficial over time, as the amount of continuous sleep we get each night is important to our cognitive function and physical ability. [caption id="attachment_157" align="alignleft" width="300"]Older Adult Sleeping Contrary to popular belief, our need for sleep does not go down as we age as an adult. It is, however, often more difficult to sleep as we age.[/caption] Once we pass age 60, it’s important to continue to take care of yourself with the best quality sleep you can get.  Senior citizens should aim for around 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night in order to maintain proper functioning.  Studies have shown that the quality of sleep we get is directly related to overall health. Although it’s tougher to sleep well as we age, it is possible to get the sleep you need at any age by taking care of yourself and maintaining healthy habits throughout your life.  This includes setting enough time aside to sleep and following a routine each night so that your body can get the refreshing sleep and rest that it needs.

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