We all know that sleep often becomes more difficult as we age. Some of us who’ve accumulated a certain number of birthday cards know this firsthand! We also know that our circadian “clocks” — an internal mechanism that keeps us on a 24-hour, night-day cycle — function less well with age, and this contributes to sleep problems that can plague older adults, including:
• Difficulty falling asleep
• Trouble staying asleep
• Problems with daytime alertness
In addition to difficulty with nightly sleep, as we age we’re less likely to be able to cope with disruptions to our night-day routines, including difficulty adapting to time-zone changes, or working non-traditional hours, late at night or early in the morning.
Sleep is a critical factor in our long-term health and well being: Studies show that it can play an important role in extending health and longevity and lack of sleep, in turn, can pose serious health consequences as we age.
Women face particular challenges to sleep throughout their lives. Research shows they are more likely than men to experience difficulty sleeping. Evidence also suggests that over time, sleeplessness can have a more serious impact on women’s overall health than on men’s. Some of the sleep challenges for women are a matter of physiology, and others can be a matter of the many roles and responsibilities that women so often take on, particularly as mothers.
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