Improving the Quality of Senior Sleep

I don’t usually have any problem falling asleep.  Put me in a comfortable chair, maybe with a good book, and I can doze off quite easily.  After 10 or 20 minutes, I wake up and am good to go.

Dianne, on the other hand, is not so fortunate.  It takes her a bit longer, and she tends to wake up more slowly.  She would like to be able to catch a quick nap during the day but is less likely to do so than me.


We all need sleep because we spend about a third of our lives getting it.  Getting adequate, quality sleep is necessary to be in good health.  The National Sleep Foundation says infants (to 3 months of age) need 17-19 hours a night, while seniors (65+) need 8 or 9 hours, on average.

If a person of any age has significant sleep problems, it could indicate a larger underlying problem like anxiety or an undiagnosed problem.  The good news is, improved sleep habits can help cure the problem.

If you, as a senior, are struggling with your health, a very good question you should ask yourself is: “Are you sleeping well?”  Frequently, the answer is “No”.  About half of seniors report some kind of sleeping problem.

Some of the most common sleeping issues include:

  • Taking longer to fall asleep
  • Not sleeping as much
  • Waking up more often during sleep
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep
  • Feeling drowsy during the day
  • Napping more often and longer

What is Normal Sleep?

One study found that for men ages 16-83, total sleep time decreased an average of 27 minutes per decade.  Older men are more likely to awaken during the middle of the night.  They spend less time in deep sleep and just don’t need as much sleep.

restful sleep

Our ability to sleep, like our ability to see, and hear, along with our strength and energy, tends to decrease as we age.  The part of the brain that regulates our body clock deteriorates as we age,  In addition, the levels of melatonin, a chemical associated with helping us get to sleep, decrease as we grow older.

 Tips to Help You Increase the Quality of Your Sleep

   Exercise: It’s important that you get enough exercise.  Exercise is one of the best things older people can do for their health. The National Institute of Aging offers helpful tips for exercising safely as an older person.   


   Reduce bedroom distractions: Televisions, cell phones, and bright lights can make it more challenging to fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep while watching  TV.   Avoid substances in the evening that discourage sleep: Substances like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and even large meals late in the day can make sleep more challenging. Eat dinner at least four hours before bedtime.

   Keep a regular sleep schedule: Aging makes it more difficult to recover from lost sleep. Avoid sudden changes in sleep schedules. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and be careful about napping too long.


   Develop a bedtime routine: Find activities that help you relax before bed. Many older people enjoy a bath, reading, or finding some quiet time before getting into bed.

   Keep a telephone by the bed: It’s important to be able to call for help from bed. Put a phone on the nightstand and keep a list of important phone numbers nearby. Make sure a light is within reach. Lights with motion sensors may be helpful in hallways or the bathroom.

   Reduce hazards in the bedroom: Never smoke in bed and be careful when placing objects in the bedroom that may become trip hazards, like rugs, cords, stools, and furniture.

For a more complete discussion of sleep issues and solutions please go to

Sleep well!

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