What happens to our sleep as we age?

It is no surprise that people tend to sleep less and wake up more throughout the night as they age.  While more sleep is required and recommended for children than adults (according to the Centers for Disease Control), a recent study published in Neuron shows that older adults don’t simply wake up and sleep for shorter periods because they require less sleep.  Rather, the study suggests that sleep actually changes as we age, and getting the restorative benefits becomes more challenging because the neurons and circuits in the areas that regulate sleep start to wear down, resulting in a decreased amount of non-REM sleep.  This kind of sleep is important for memory and cognition!


Matthew Walker, co-author of the study says that “sleep changes with aging, but it doesn’t just change with aging; it can also start to explain aging itself… Every one of the major diseases that are killing us in first-world nations–from diabetes to obesity to Alzheimer’s disease to cancer–all of those things now have strong causal links to a lack of sleep. And all of those diseases significantly increase in likelihood the older that we get, and especially in dementia.”


The authors note that sleep loss can begin as early as in one’s thirties and the declines occur in different elements of sleep (like time spent in sleep phases with sleep patterns becoming more disorganized).


The quality of and benefits from non-REM sleep seem most susceptible to deterioration with age, and men experience far more deterioration in non-REM deep sleep than do women (changes to REM sleep appear similar for both genders).


The authors of the study recommend keeping a sleep schedule and limiting sleep disruptors such as alcohol.  Notably, sleeping pills don’t seem to prove very useful because they act to sedate the brain rather than adjusting sleep patterns.


Somnuva has the world’s first sleep-device patented algorithm, using sound technology to re-educate the brain to adopt a healthy sleep cycle.  Could this device help restore youthful sleep patterns?

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