The Importance of Sleep for Seniors

senior man getting a good nights sleep


If Sharon didn’t get a good night’s sleep soon she would not be able to function at all during the day. Her insomnia had become more frequent as she aged, and her move to the senior living apartment from her old home has seemed to exacerbate the problem. She is sleeping in her same bed, has her comforting belongings around her, and yet she can’t fall asleep. Sharon thinks it may be time to talk to her doctor about sleeping pills.

Deep, restorative sleep is important for people of all ages. A good night’s sleep is especially important for older adults. Sleep deprivation can cause health degradation, affects mood, energy, cognition and balance. It can cause depression, impede immune response and enhance or cause cognitive decline. Sleep helps to repair damaged cells and tissue, and also bolsters the immune system. Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but experts recommend that older adults get more than six but no more than nine hours of sleep per night.

Common Senior Sleep Problems

Sleep notes that difficulty sleeping is not a normal part of aging and can be addressed. “Sleep patterns change as we age, but disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day are not part of normal aging.”

Difficulty sleeping can be caused by a variety of causes from consuming too much caffeine, to medical conditions to sleep disorders. Drinking liquids near to prescription and over the counter medications, a lack of sunlight, pets, noise, light all can impede the ability to sleep well.

Sleep and Seniors: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

There are remedies older adults can employ to support consistent restorative sleep. These include:

Set the stage for sleep:

  • Remove the TV.
  • Hang dark curtains to keep out ambient light.
  • Ensure that the temperature of the room is comfortable.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom.
  • Use an aromatherapy diffusor with lavender oil to aid in relaxation.
  • Play quiet relaxing music or environmental sounds.
  • Ensure that your mattress is supportive and your bedding inviting.

Add exercise/activity:

  • Stay active and busy.
  • Engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
  • Keeping your mind engaged and your schedule full.


  • Get enough sunlight during the day to boost melatonin.
  • Spend 15 -20 minutes outside in the sunlight each day when possible. (Always wear sunscreen.)
  • Use full spectrum light bulbs in lamps around your home and office.


  • A short meditation practice can help relax the mind and body before sleeping.
  • Take a meditation class or watch a meditation tutorial on line.
  • Employ deep cleansing and rhythmic breathing techniques


  • Avoid napping.
  • Or take only a short nap of no more than a 15 – 30 minutes duration. Ensure the nap is well before bedtime.

Sleep schedule/rituals:         

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Create a sleep ritual and repeat it each evening.


  • Do not drink liquids an hour before bedtime.
  • Use the bathroom to relieve your bladder prior to getting into bed.

Caffeine and alcohol:  

  • Reduce the quantity of caffeine consumed during the day.
  • Do not consume caffeine 6 hours or less prior to bedtime.
  • Do not consume alcohol before bedtime or to help you sleep.


  • Review your mediations with your healthcare provider to see if any of them affect sleep.

If you share your bed with another and their sleep habits disturb you, encourage your sleep partner to engage in behavior modification and pre-sleep routines with you, or consider sleeping separately.

If you are often tired during the day and changes in behavior don’t result in a better night’s sleep, check with your healthcare provider. Make sure you bring a list of your medications, caffeine and alcohol use, and any other factors that may affect sleeping. There may be underlying health issues that are affecting your sleep, your medication may require adjustment, or a sleep study may be prescribed.

For more information visit the National Sleep Foundation


This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.