Senior Living Care Blog

Senior Sleep Deprivation

Posted by Joe Gilmore on Aug 8, 2019 11:00:00 AM


It is not uncommon for seniors to deal with sleep-related disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and sleep deprivation. These are normal issues for older adults to deal with. Learning more about these types of problems will help you recognize the behavior in yourself or your loved one and get treatment if needed to improve your quality of life.


Sleep Deprivation

An older man sleeping on a bus. Senior sleep deprivation is common in older adults

Sleep deprivation is a condition in which an individual fails to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can be different for everyone as everyone’s sleep schedule and needs tend to be different. However, most average adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel rested and rejuvenated.


As we age, our sleep can become increasingly fragmented. While sleep deprivation may not be as much of an issue in older adults as it is in younger populations, it is something that still affects over 25 percent of older adults aged 65 and older. However, seniors tend to be more tolerant of the problem and complain of sleep problems less than younger adults.



There are a number of reasons that you or your loved one may be dealing with sleep deprivation. For example, personal obligations may restrict sleep time, medical issues can get in the way of a good night’s sleep, and for some people, the issue may just be voluntary. Sleep deprivation may also be caused by other underlying sleep disorders such as insomnia or restless leg syndrome.



One of the biggest symptoms and effects of sleep deprivation is excessive sleepiness during the daytime. Unfortunately, this can lead to some dangerous scenarios and can be safety hazards. For example, if a person is driving when they are dealing with this type of effect, it can lead to drowsy driving which can cause issues on its own with reaction time but the problem may even persist and someone may end up falling asleep at the wheel.


Other symptoms associated with sleep deprivation can affect mood and health causing issues like anxiety, depressive symptoms, lethargy, high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, and more.


Age-Related Changes In Sleep

An older man sleeping in a chair. Senior sleep deprivation is common among older adults

As mentioned before, there are several changes that occur in the body as a result of aging, one is the way we sleep. There are significant changes that occur in sleep and the circadian rhythm as you age. For one, total sleep time decreases drastically in your lifetime. From a young age, you will generally get 10 to 14 hours of sleep a night, which will fall to 6.5 to 8.5 hours a night as a young adult, and then again slowly decreases to about 5 to 7 hours a night as an older adult.


Moreover, older adults generally spend less time in deep sleep then they did when they were younger. Beginning in your middle-age years, adults will normally spend less time in REM sleep, the deepest sleep, than they did when they were younger. This will only continue as you age and sleep efficiency will decrease.


Other Sleep Disorders

A man on a bench suffering from senior sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a condition but it can also be considered a symptom of other sleep disorders that are common among older adults.


Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder during sleeping that is caused by an obstruction in the upper airway. Symptoms associated with sleep apnea include snoring, daytime tiredness, decreased cognitive functioning, and more. There are a number of risk factors that can increase your chances of dealing with sleep apnea such as obesity, aging, family history, and more. Unfortunately, those who struggle with sleep apnea are more likely to deal with increased hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality.


Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a common issue among older adults. It is estimated to affect 10 to 35 percent of adults over the age of 65. It is characterized by an abnormal tingling sensation in the legs. The symptoms often occur before sleep as they are a result of restlessness and lack of movement.


Unfortunately, for people dealing with restless legs syndrome, it can often lead to other sleep issues including insomnia and sleep deprivation.



While sleep deprivation is an issue related to not getting your full eight hours of sleep, insomnia is a different beast. Insomnia can cause sleep deprivation but is generally considered to be more of a different problem that is associated with difficulty initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, or early-morning awakening with the inability to return to sleep. Insomnia is somewhat of a common problem among older adults. In fact, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older individuals experience one or more nighttime symptoms related to insomnia at least a few nights per week.



Snoring is a primary cause of sleep disruption and can lead to issues such as insomnia. Snoring is something that affects a large number of people. In fact, about 90 million American adults deal with snoring. Snoring can lead to a number of different problems include daytimes tiredness, morning headaches, weight gain, and more. Luckily, there are some treatment options to help snorers overcome their issue, including lifestyle modifications, surgery, and more. If you are dealing with this problem you can try losing weight, sleep on your side rather than your back, avoid alcohol before bed, and more.


Whatever the specific issue may be, getting the proper amount of sleep is vitally important to your health and can actually interfere with your overall health and lead to many direct and indirect consequences that could end up being life-threatening.


Next Steps

If you or a loved one is suffering from sleep deprivation or another age-related sleep disorder, it may be a good idea to look into hiring a caregiver or an assisted living facility to help watch over them and keep them safe. Landmark Senior Living is one organization that is dedicated to providing quality care for all of our residents. Landmark can offer your loved one access to medical care when required and can help with things like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia through our memory care program. If you would like to learn more about Landmark and what we can offer, please visit our website and reach out to schedule a free tour of one of our memory care facilities in New Mexico.


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Topics: Senior Health

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