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How our Sleep Needs Change as We Age

Sleep Support - comfy bed

Good sleep comes easily for some, others, not so much. If you’ve ever laid awake at night wondering why you can’t sleep this article could be for you, especially if you’ve found your ability to get a solid 8 hours has changed over time. We asked our naturopaths to round up some common sleep issues throughout our decades and the kinds of things we can turn to for support.

There are some common challenges to sleep that we all face no matter what age: inconsistent sleep routines (shift work), overconsumption of stimulants such as caffeine, over-exposure to artificial light—especially blue light from our devices and excess stress that we go through at various times in our lives. But there are some general trends that tend to go with various age groups.

It’s not unusual to experience occasional sleep problems. However, if you experience a poor night sleep on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to try to address the underlying cause into what’s contributing to your tossing and turning as more and more research emerges into the negative health implications of long term sleep deprivation.

Sleep in our 20s

Burning the candle at both ends – with social events that go well into the wee hours and/or super early visits to the gym can cause sleep problems affect people in their 20s. Feeling healthy, resilient, and full of energy, it can be tempting to think you can skimp on sleep without consequences. It’s true that someone in their 20’s has a lot of sleep-related biological advantages going for them, including hormones like oestrogen and testosterone are naturally high. But there is growing research that suggests that sleep deprivation, even when we are younger, can have an impact our metabolism, mood, appetite, weight gain and cognitive function and have consequences throughout our adult lives.

Supportive nutrients for sleep during our 20s:

B Vitamins: Not only support our energy levels during the day, but sufficient levels of B vitamins are also needed to support healthy sleep.
Magnesium: Is easily depleted when we are living life to the full. Keeping our reserves topped-up supports cellular energy production during the day and relaxation to our body at night.

Women of childbearing age

Many women regularly experience sleep problems that directly relate to their monthly menstrual cycle. Menstrual related disorders can all have their fair share of symptoms that can result in a rotten night’s sleep. These fluctuating hormone levels not only affect mood but can also lead to women feeling drained and worn-out during the day then restless and uncomfortable during the night. Easing these symptoms when they occur is important but addressing the ongoing underlying imbalance is essential for long term reprieve.

Supportive nutrients for women of childbearing age:

Evening Primrose oil: helps to relieve symptoms of PMS.
Magnesium: needed for a healthy hormonal balance and stress response.
Passion Flower and Lemon Balm: 2 well-known herbs that support calm, sleep & relaxation.

30s & 40s

Chalk it up to the pace of modern living. Many life changes take place during these years and all of them can have a major impact on sleep. New and more demanding jobs, marriages, buying homes and having children. Our bodies in our 30s and early 40s remain naturally regulated to sleep well—but the demands of balancing work and family often make that difficult. Sleep is what tends to get left out, which in turn can affect our health.

Supportive nutrients in our 30s & 40s:

B vitamins: Support our energy levels and help us cope with stress. Sufficient levels are needed to support healthy sleep.
Magnesium: Gets depleted easily when under stress. Deficiency makes us less tolerant of stress andmakes it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Passion Flower and Lemon Balm: Support sleep & relaxation.

Sleep in our 50s

Even if you’ve slept well for years – the moment some women hit menopause a good night’s sleep seems like a thing of the past. As hormones fluctuate along with overall hormonal decline, symptoms (be it physical, mental and emotional) begin to disrupt sleep on a regular basis. Hot flushes, night sweats and other symptoms can also be made worse when we are stressed and overworked. Herbs for supporting hormonal balance are a good option here. Supporting your liver and adrenal glands throughout this time can also make a difference with menopausal symptoms.

Men don’t get off lightly either – other than the unrelenting demands of busy lives (which often leads to sleepless nights). This age group is often when the first signs of changes in the prostate start to show which results in more visits to the bathroom, especially during the night.

For a female-specific supplement to support hormonal imbalances in your 50s try Meno-Life.
For Saw Palmetto, Zinc and Selenium to support men’s prostate and urinary health try Prostate Complete.

Sleep in our 60 & 70s

As you get older, your sleep may become less satisfying and less restorative. This is because as you age your body produces lower levels of hormones, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in deep sleep (the more refreshing part of the sleep cycle).

When this happens you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep and wake up more often during the night. That’s why many people in this age bracket consider themselves light-sleepers.

Magnesium is often less absorbed as we age leading to deficiencies but healthy magnesium levels help to ease muscle tension for a more restful night’s sleep. To support your magnesium levels choose a supplement from our magnesium range or choose our sleep-specific formula.

Sleep for 80s and over

Older people often experience normal changes in their sleeping patterns, such as becoming sleepy earlier or waking up earlier. However, disturbed sleep and constantly waking up tired every day, are not a normal part of ageing. Sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health as it was when you were younger.

Disrupted sleep in the elderly is often associated with health issues and physical discomfort. Many people believe this is part of normal ageing or that nothing can be done to help. Some medications can also disrupt sleep patterns.

Big changes aren’t always possible, but often even small changes can make the difference in our quality of sleep. Nutrient deficiencies (either from poor gut absorption or inadequate diet) are sometimes what’s missing. Supplementing with nutrients like magnesium, albeit simple, can sometimes make a big difference. It’s never too late to address our health when aiming to get a good night sleep.

Magnesium: Healthy magnesium levels help to ease muscle tension and spasms for a more restful night’s sleep.
Passion Flower and Lemon Balm: These herbs support relaxation and healthy sleep patterns

No matter what age you are a good night sleep can support your immune system and mood and leave you feeling refreshed!

Thanks to Lynley for talking to us about how our sleep patterns can change as we age. We loved the insights on how to support ourselves through this. If you have any queries about sleep, our naturopaths are always on hand to talk.