Seniors & Sleep: Understanding Sleep Patterns in the Elderly

The answer to why the elderly sleep so much revolves around proper rest and recovery for their minds and bodies. We discuss more reasons in this guide!

Newborns and children ought to have 12-15 hours, while adults up to 65 get about 6-8 hours of sleep daily.

But how come seniors sleep more than the average adult?

Let’s dive into why, plus the benefits of sleep for seniors and potential concerns for excessive sleep.

Does the Elderly Need More Sleep?

Senior man having a good nap at home.

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Yes they do! Sleep is vital to our health and wellness, no matter how young or old we are. Seniors under memory care and respite care are even given sleep schedules between activities.

We are certain there are more, but here are 10 of the most notable benefits of sleep for the elderly:

Prevents Dementia

Indeed, sleep duration is key to preventing dementia and premature death.

Getting enough healthy sleep allows our natural bodily systems to remove toxins in the brain and regenerate cells. This function keeps us healthy and able!

But it’s not just sleep duration that we are talking about.

Reducing the risk of sleep disturbance and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle are also necessary to prevent dementia.

Prevents Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is one of the potentially serious sleeping disorders among older adults.

It’s why you sometimes hear an elderly loved one snore loudly and abruptly start and stop their breathing.

This sleeping problem can be prevented by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. You don’t even need to be a senior yet to consider these good habits.

Start immediately!

Boosts Immune System

Our bodies will not be as resistant to viruses and infections anymore as we age.

Sleep allows our bodies to recharge our energies and our immune systems to prevent illnesses and fight colds when we have them.

Seniors under memory care and respite care are given utmost attention to this matter, making sure they get enough rest, as even the simple flu can be devastating to some.

Better Mood

Ever seen a toddler in a tantrum because of their lack of sleep? We have no doubt you’ll see the same scenario among seniors.

Having enough sleep puts one in a good mood. Seniors can feel irritable if they do not get enough naps during the day.

Repairs Damaged Cells and Tissues

Sleep is regenerative! Rest allows our tired brains or injuries to repair and restore themselves to their ideal capacity.

It is also said that getting enough sleep daily throughout your life will increase your longevity. More healthy sleep hours, more healthy years of life!

Reduces Inflammation

Chronic diseases like heart ailments, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis are forms of inflammation in the body.Sleep has been proven to reduce these inflammatory-inducing proteins.

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Fuels Creativity

Creative expressions like painting, writing, singing, and dancing are crucial to healthy aging.

Sleep allows the elderly to reorganize and restructure all their memories of skills. This is good to keep them engaged, have good mental health, and still find joy in living!

Maintains Healthy Weight

Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same areas in our brain.

You maintain muscle mass and appetite through proper sleep. Along with diet and exercise, this keeps us looking and feeling young, even if age doesn’t say so!

Regulates Stress

Sleep lowers stress levels.

Having a consistent sleep routine calms the body, improves focus, regulates mood, and enhances our cognitive functions.

If an elderly is having trouble at home, a good night’s rest can at least alleviate the anxieties and troubles they are facing momentarily and help them think clearer.

Reduces Accidents

Sleepiness and tiredness can decrease one’s awareness of their environment and reflexes.

This can possibly cause falls and accidents or even more serious health problems among seniors.


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Is It Normal for an Elderly Person to Sleep All Day?

Sleeping all day is not normal and should be a cause for concern.

We understand it is necessary for the elderly to have enough sleep, but there is a healthy number of hours of sleep.

7 to 9 hours of sleep at night is good, and brief naps during the day are advisable too.

Here are the possible risks of sleeping all day:

1. Sleep Deprivation

Many seniors sleep lightly as a sign of decline in REM sleep.

They wake up during the night to use the bathroom or feel pains in their muscle joints and might stay awake through the night due to insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or excessive snoring.

This lack of quality sleep at night makes them feel the need to compensate for lost sleep by staying in bed longer or taking daytime naps.

This is normal. But if the time in bed is longer than the time a senior is awake, this becomes a problem.

2. Mental Health Conditions

Our sleep changes as we age naturally. Inevitably, our circadian rhythm may no longer be tuned to its best with age.

Many mental health conditions will develop with other diseases like back pain, heart conditions, and high blood pressure.


A lot of elderly lose interest in life.

Depression is not healthy or normal when people age. Unfortunately, medical research shows a big number of clinically depressed seniors.

Sleep issues and extreme fatigue are common indications that an elderly loved one suffers from a disorder. Make sure to talk it with them and consult with a physician.

Taking antidepressants can also result in excessive sleepiness as a side effect. Make sure to communicate with a doctor to ensure your loved ones get the right medication.


Seniors who have dementia like Alzheimer’s disease experience many problems with sleep, especially as the disease advances.

When the brain deteriorates, circadian rhythms will be all over the place. In many cases, dementia patients will fall asleep during the day, even while doing an activity.

The elderly suffering from dementia is often placed under respite and memory care.

Sleep deprivation can cause agitation among the elderly, which will require the help of professional caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends seniors be engaged in activities during the day with scheduled naps to stick to a sleep schedule and encourage good sleep habits.

3. Medication Side Effects

Seniors who usually use multiple prescription drugs have combinations that affect sleep negatively.

Over-the-counter prescription drugs often taken by most elderly patients are for chronic pain, high blood pressure, nausea, allergies, and anxiety.

All drugs have side effects. Depending on their interactions, you can either get less sleep or excessive sleep regardless of the elderly or younger adults.

Sleep may not be the only health concern for prescription medications. Seniors will also experience dizziness or drowsiness.

4. Boredom or Lack of Engagement

Age-related changes in our lives include mobility, habits, and social interactions.

Sometimes, we can’t even work on our favorite puzzles or get some reading due to poor eyesight.

Many seniors feel bored and do not engage in activities because of their feeling of incapability. Taking daytime naps is good but excessive sleepiness is a reason for concern.

Being part of a community and participating in organized activities can help seniors fight boredom and apathy.


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Tips for Seniors to Improve Their Sleep:

Here are some tips to help your elderly loved ones get better sleep:

  1. Stay Active – Regular walks, light aerobics and jogging are some exercises for elders recommended by a therapist.
  2. Reduce Caffeine Intake – Especially in the afternoon!
  3. Be Social – Keep in contact with the community, peers, and family members to prevent depression and boredom.
  4. Take Therapy – Conversations with a psychologist can help lighten depression, the usual cause of daytime sleepiness in the elderly.
  5. Review Use of Over-the-counter Medications – Seek advice from a physician on possible alternatives to avoid excessive sleepiness and other sleep disorders.
  6. Modify Sleeping Environment – Use blackout curtains, a sound machine, or weighted blankets to induce better sleep.
  7. Bedtime Schedule – Maintaining a regular sleep routine and bedtime schedule will help you get sleep quality and enough hours.

Why Do Seniors Have Sleep Problems?

Seniors have sleep problems

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Apart from natural degeneration, hormonal changes in melatonin and cortisol play a big role in bad sleeping experiences.

Certain medical conditions affect sleep. These include depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

What Does It Mean When an Elderly Person Starts Sleeping All the Time?

We cannot deny that sometimes, excessive sleeping may indicate more serious medical conditions.

It may not always mean they are close to their death, but it is certainly a reason to seek immediate advice and treatment from a doctor.


It is natural for you to worry if your beloved elderly start sleeping longer than usual. 

However, you need to keep in mind all the years and mileage senior citizens have on their bodies. 

The physical and mental toll they have to endure is no joke. 

Therefore, we must respect their bodies’ need for much-needed rest and recovery.

Trust us! You’re going to need extra sleep as you grow older.

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