Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Select An Article

Sleep and Aging

Font Size

More than half of men and women over the age of 65 complain of at least one sleep problem. Many aging people experience insomnia and other sleep disorders on a regular basis.

As we get older, our sleep patterns change. In general, older people sleep less, experience more fragmented sleep, and spend less time in stages 3 & 4 and REM sleep (for example, deep sleep and dream sleep) than younger people. However, regardless of age, good restorative sleep is essential to physical health and emotional well-being.

Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

Sleep Labs: Rx for Better Shut-Eye

Karen D.' s husband was not sleeping well. Every night after he settled into bed, Karen would start to snore -- loudly and all night long. "My husband had been complaining for years about my snoring, and it was getting worse," says Karen, of Boston. "Even when I went away with my girlfriends, no one wanted to share a room with me." While Karen's snoring was keeping everyone within earshot awake, it was also affecting her own sleep. For as long as she could remember, the Bostonian lumbered through...

Read the Sleep Labs: Rx for Better Shut-Eye article > >

What Causes Sleep Problems in Older People?

Several factors may contribute to the inability to sleep well as we get older. Some common causes include:

  • Poor sleep habits: Irregular sleep-wake patterns can affect an individual's circadian rhythm and make it hard to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Other sleep hygiene issues, such as consumption of alcohol before bedtime, increased wakeful time in bed, or daytime napping, can also affect a person's ability to sleep.
  • Medications: Some drugs may impair a person's ability to fall asleep or stay asleep and may even stimulate wakefulness at night.
  • Psychological distress or psychiatric disorders: Aging is characterized by a lot of life events, some positive and some negative. Some elderly people experience psychological problems or psychiatric disorders that will affect the quality and quantity of sleep. For example, life changes such as the death of a loved one, moving from a family home, or physical limitations due to illness can cause significant stress and sleep problems.
  • Sleep disorders: Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and REM behavior disorder, may be associated with aging in some cases.
  • Retirement: Retirement often leads to a lot of downtime with less daytime activity; this can lead to an irregular sleep-wake schedule and chronic sleep problems.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Regardless of age, every person's sleep needs are different. If you are getting less sleep than when you were younger, but still feel rested and energetic during the day, it might just be that you now need less sleep. However, if you are noticing that your lack of sleep is affecting your daytime activities, you should talk to your doctor. There are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 14, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing