Aging & Sleep Deprivation 

Aging & Sleep Deprivation - Key Summary


Changes in sleep patterns is a normal part of aging process. People who are aged 50+ may find that they have harder time falling asleep, they’re awaken more often during the night and waking up earlier in the morning. Older people on average have 3 or 4 awakenings each night. Men and women ages 60+ years especially find it hard to stay asleep throughout the night. Insomnia is also a common occurrence. Total sleep time stays the same or is slightly decreased (6.5-7 hours per night or even much less).


The deep sleep stage decreases significantly as you age. This is bad news since deep sleep is the most restorative & healing part of sleep. If this is not fixed, this will lead to faster aging, further weakening of the immune system,  increased inflammation, faster rate of cognitive decline and many more… 

Why Sleep Deprivation Occurs Amongst Aging People?

  • A shift in body’s inner circadian rhythm – the circadian rhythm is basically a daily pattern that affects most processes within the body from immune system to sleep. As people age, they seem to advance the “phase” of their circadian rhythm, meaning older people tend to become sleepier in the early evening and wake earlier in the morning compared to younger adults. This pattern is called advanced sleep phase syndrome. The sleep rhythm is shifted forward so that 7 or 8 hours of sleep are still obtained but the individuals will wake up extremely early because they have gone to sleep quite early.
  • Poor health/ Chronic illness: in general, people with the following medical conditions have more sleep problems:
      • Hypertension (associated with both snoring and OSA)
      • Menopause (hot flashes, changes in breathing, and decreasing hormone levels)
      • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
      • Diabetes mellitus
      • Renal failure
      • Respiratory diseases (such as: asthma)
      • Other immune disorders
      • Parkinson’s disease 
      • Multiple sclerosis

Dangers of Sleep Deprivation amongst 50+

  • Aging skin – during the deep sleep stage, your body makes human growth hormone (which stimulates cell production such as collagen). Without adequate time to produce new, fresh cells and fix yesterday’s damage, collagen production will stifle and your skin will prematurely age
  • Cognitive decline or mental changes or confusion. Increased risk factor in developing dementia
  • Developing cardiovascular disease. A study of 20,000 adults found that those who slept less than 7 hours per night and woke up feeling unrested had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Increased inflammatory markers in the body. Studies have found that reduced sleep leads to elevated blood markers related to inflammation. 
  • Weaker function of the immune system. 
  • Increased risk of obesity. A 2008 meta-analysis found that being a short-sleeper is associated with obesity. 

Treating sleep deprivation amongst elderly