We spend a good part of our life sleeping, more than a third of our time! It is during our periods of sleep that our body recovers both physically and psychologically. A moment that should not be neglected to stay in shape because it is in no way a waste of time as is too often believed. Unfortunately, we are not all created equal when it comes to sleep.
At any age, disorders that disrupt this essential moment of rest can appear. But as we age, sleep naturally changes, especially the different phases that make it up. This is why many older people complain of poor sleep. With advancing age, sleep disorders can also be due to illness or loss of bearings, with significant consequences for health.
The older we get, the more sleep changes naturally. First in terms of rhythms. If the different sleep cycles during the night, during which light, deep and paradoxical sleep phases alternate, remain around 90 minutes on average each, an elderly person sees the duration of his sleep time decrease and, above all, it is organized differently and spreads out throughout the day, notably taking the form of several short siestas. A rhythm that often gives seniors the impression of not sleeping well at night, or even suffering from insomnia.
This feeling of not sleeping well is also reinforced by the fact that falling asleep occurs earlier in the elderly, most often from 9 p.m., resulting in waking up very early in the morning and an inability to fall back to sleep, whereas in fact, the duration of sleep is quite normal and plays its recovery role well.
Then, from the age of 60, sleep also deteriorates in terms of quality, in particular because the phases of deep sleep, necessary periods that allow you to recover your physical and psychological strength, become rarer.
If the time to fall asleep does not really change in seniors, except in those over 80, they are on the other hand subject to more frequent awakenings during a night's sleep. On the other hand, the elderly are more sensitive to surrounding noises which cause untimely awakenings, just like the normal deterioration with age of the regulation of the body in the face of cold or heat.
If these changes in sleep are in fact inherent to age and have no real impact on health, other disorders, on the other hand, can appear and be the indicators of problems to be taken seriously. For example, according to the site pourbienvieillir.fr, 40% of people over 75 suffer from insomnia, a pathology that can lead to difficulty concentrating during the day, even memory, and significant drowsiness during the day. This insomnia can also be caused by health problems such as hypertension, physical pain, or even depression.
In some elderly people, most often overweight or who have a poor lifestyle, sleep disorders are also manifested by sleep apnea syndrome, that is to say an interruption of breathing which can be long during sleep, and which can cause significant drowsiness during the day and lead to very great and lasting fatigue.
Others also suffer from the so-called restless legs syndrome characterized by the occurrence of cramps and ants in the legs at night, combined with a feeling of excessive heat, which greatly disturbs sleep.
All these more serious sleep disorders because they have real consequences on health are to be seriously considered and must be taken care of by health professionals.
When it is not sleep disturbances caused by a disease that requires medical treatment, the feeling of much less sleep when you are old is also partly due to the lack of natural light because the sight is weakening. and physical problems may prevent regular outings from home. However, this light is essential because it allows you to adjust to your biological clock, and therefore to your sleep rhythm. This is why an elderly person who can must leave their home as regularly as possible to take advantage of this essential natural light which helps them sleep better at night.
In the same way, having regular physical activity promotes sleep and in particular prevents untimely awakenings at night and drowsiness during the day.
As we have seen, with age, the rhythm of sleep changes with in particular falling asleep earlier in the evening and, consequently, waking up very early in the morning. Elderly people who suffer from not being able to sleep longer in the morning should not stay in bed at all costs. The duration of their sleep is indeed quite sufficient for a good recovery and it is advisable to rather get up and undertake a pleasant activity to start the day well.
In any case, a regular rhythm of life with in particular going to bed and getting up at the same times helps enormously to improve the quality of your sleep. In the same way, during the day, having pleasant and constant activities, just like taking regular meals, helps to create benchmarks in time that facilitate falling asleep and a good night's sleep.
Even if a small nap during the day has its virtues, an elderly person must limit its duration to 20 minutes maximum to avoid disturbing his sleep in the evening and at night.