How does aging affect sleep quality?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Most of us require at least six hours of sleep a night, and usually seven to eight hours. When we are younger, we need more sleep, and the quality of our sleep is better. As we age, the quality of our sleep decreases. Our periods of "slow-wave sleep" - the kind of sleep needed to ensure mental alertness and motor coordination - decrease from one hundred fifty minutes a day to just twenty-five. These periods of slow-wave sleep are vitally important but don't occur until an hour and a half or more of continual sleep. Thus, if you are frequently awakened by some physical condition - for example, the need to urinate because of an enlarged prostate, a common problem in older men - or sleep apnea, you will not get the restorative sleep you need.
Ben Kaminsky
Both the quantity and quality of sleep change significantly with aging. Usually, deep sleep (stages 3 and 4 or delta) declines with age, while light sleep (stage 1) increases. The number of arousals and the amount of wakefulness also increase in later years. Not surprisingly, young children have particularly large proportions of delta sleep, which increases if they are sleep deprived or very tired. This explains why trying to wake up a young child may be difficult. With the process of aging, environmental noise throughout the nighttime hours usually arouses older adults because of the smaller proportions of delta sleep. 
Beyond Botox: 7 Strategies for Sexy, Ageless Skin Without Needles or Surgery

More About this Book

Beyond Botox: 7 Strategies for Sexy, Ageless Skin Without Needles or Surgery

Sexy and ageless skin is possible for a woman at any age--and she doesn't have to resort to invasive treatments like Botox to get it-as long as she cares for her skin properly, says Ben Kaminsky,...

Continue Learning about Healthy Sleeping

Sleep Problems Are Not Inevitable as You Age
Sleep Problems Are Not Inevitable as You Age
“To sleep, perchance to dream,” from Hamlet, is an elusive wish for a lot who are 65 and older. In fact, almost half of Americans over the age of 65 s...
Read More
Why should I get enough sleep if I am on a diet?
Brooke RandolphBrooke Randolph
When you are dieting, getting ample sleep is essential. If your body does not have enough energy...
More Answers
Can poor sleep make me sick?
Dr. Robin Miller, MDDr. Robin Miller, MD
if you've ever found yourself sniffling and sneezing after battling jet lag, then you already kn...
More Answers
What Are Some Tips for Better Sleeping?
What Are Some Tips for Better Sleeping?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.