Sleep and ageing: Practical tips for optimal rest and well-being

Jan 18, 2024
Don’t let these tips keep you up at night, instead, relax, and allow yourself to awaken your best. Source: Getty Images.

Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining overall health and well-being, regardless of age. The ResMed 2023 Global Sleep Survey revealed that more than 81 per cent of Australians report waking up with one or more symptoms of sleep disruption, impacting the quality of their sleep. 

However, as we get older, various factors can impact our sleep patterns and quality. As we age the way we sleep begins to change and although, in general, older adults still need 7-9 hours of sleep each night they tend to go to sleep earlier and wake earlier than they did in younger life.

Join us in exploring the link between sleep and overall health, while offering practical tips to ensure optimal sleep and enhance your well-being.

Let’s explore the significance of sleep health for over 60s, the challenges you can encounter, and strategies to improve your sleep. 

Sleep is essential for physical, cognitive, and emotional health, and its significance is particularly pronounced in the elderly. Adequate sleep promotes physical restoration, immune function, cardiovascular health, and hormonal balance. It also supports cognitive functions, memory consolidation, and overall mental well-being.

Furthermore, quality sleep plays a crucial role in preventing age-related cognitive decline, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and enhancing the quality of life. Despite all this almost half (47 per cent) of Australians have never sought help for their sleep, with one in three (36 per cent) reporting they have never been tested for sleep apnoea or sought medical help for another sleep. 

Despite the importance of sleep, older adults often face unique challenges that can disrupt their sleep patterns and overall sleep health. Some common challenges include: 

  1. Changes in sleep architecture: Aging is associated with alterations in the makeup of our sleep, including reduced deep sleep and increased awakenings during the night. These changes can lead to fragmented sleep and an overall feeling that your sleep is poor quality.
  2. Sleep disorders: The prevalence of sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder, increases with age. These disorders can significantly disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to daytime fatigue and impaired functioning. Amazingly 19 per cent of Australians think snoring is a sign of good sleep; despite it being the #1 indicator of sleep apnoea in both men and women!
  3. Medical conditions and medications: The presence of chronic health conditions and the use of multiple medications are more common as you age. Certain health conditions and medications can interfere with sleep, either directly or indirectly, leading to sleep disturbances.
  4. Circadian rhythm changes: The elderly often experience shifts in their circadian rhythm, resulting in an inclination to sleep earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning. This can lead to difficulties in maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

We’ve discussed all these problems you can encounter with your sleep as you age but despite the challenges, several simple strategies can help improve your sleep health: 

  1. Establish a consistent sleep routine: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can promote better sleep quality and regulate the circadian rhythm.
  2. Create a sleep-friendly environment: Ensure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet, and dark. Consider using earplugs, eye shades, or white noise machines to minimise disturbances during sleep.
  3. Adopt relaxation techniques: Engage in relaxation activities before bedtime, such as reading, taking a warm bath, practising deep breathing exercises, or meditation. These practices can help calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep.
  4. Promote daytime physical activity: Encouraging regular exercise during the day can enhance sleep quality, this can be as simple as a morning walk in the sunlight. However, vigorous exercise should be avoided close to bedtime, as it may have stimulating effects.
  5. Limit stimulants and alcohol: Restrict the intake of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially in the evening, as these substances can disrupt sleep patterns.
  6. Manage medications and health conditions: Consult with healthcare professionals to evaluate medications and identify potential sleep-disrupting effects. Additionally, managing underlying health conditions effectively can contribute to improved sleep health.
  7. Seek treatment for sleep disorders: If sleep disorders are suspected then you can get further information online and find self-assessment tools at However, it is crucial to consult with healthcare providers who specialise in sleep medicine should you have any unanswered questions or complex medical conditions.
  8. Optimise sleep hygiene: Encourage good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding electronic devices before bedtime, and establishing a relaxing pre-sleep routine.

Please remember that above all relaxation plays a crucial role in promoting good sleep. When it comes to achieving quality sleep, both the body and mind need to be in a calm and relaxed state. Don’t let these tips keep you up at night, instead, relax, and allow yourself to awaken your best.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO: This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.


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