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Why do older people need less sleep?

I remember when I was young, I could sleep forever. Now that I'm older, I can't sleep as long as I used to, but I feel ok when I wake up.

4835 day(s) ago

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The belief that older people need less sleep was widely held for hundreds years, but, not long ago, this notion was dismissed as a myth. Now, scientists are not so sure that it is a myth after all. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School and the University of Surrey, concluded in 2008, shows that younger people, lying in a dark bedroom for 16 hours, sleep an average of 9 hours. Older people only sleep for 7.5 hours under the same conditions. This is thought to be because of hormonal changes that hinder older people to fall asleep. These changes also keep them from remaining asleep once they get there.

This can seem just the opposite of what happens in reality. We often think of older people sleeping longer and younger people hardly getting any sleep because of their busy lives. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that younger people need less sleep, it just means they are not getting the amount of sleep that they need.

The exact reason why older individuals require less sleep is still unknown but several theories exist. Hormones are thought to play a major role in sleep patterns. Melatonin controls our sleep cycles and older people are thought to produce less of this important hormone. Declining levels of growth hormone are responsible for needing less sleep once adulthood is reached and may factor in to senior sleep patterns as well. Health conditions play an important role in sleeping, and they affect the amount of sleep people get. The study mentioned, however, used only 100% healthy individuals who have no need to take medication.

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