Insomnia Becomes More Prevalent As We Age: Here's How To Get Ahead Of It

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

How sleep is essential to preserving old memories and making new ones

If you've ever experienced insomnia, you know it's no fun. And as we get older, it only becomes more common. Different age groups have different sleep needs, and for adults in their 60s and up, they may need to give extra attention to their routine to avoid insomnia as best they can. Here's why insomnia rates go up as we age, plus what can be done to improve sleep quality down the line.

Why insomnia becomes more common as we age.

According to research, many older adults often encounter enough sleep disturbances to meet the criteria for insomnia disorder. These issues include, but aren't limited to, taking longer to fall asleep, spending less time asleep, waking up frequently throughout the night, and low energy during the day.

As gerontology and sleep expert Glenna Brewster, Ph.D., explains to mbg, "Compared with younger adults, the prevalence of insomnia is higher in middle and older adults and increases with age. However, this does not mean that insomnia is a normal part of aging."

She notes there are a myriad of factors that can explain why older adults experience more insomnia, whether they are financial, environmental, behavioral, or, of course, medical. These include:

  • financial challenges associated with fixed income
  • moving to a new home, downsizing to a smaller space or into an assisted living or nursing home community
  • drinking alcohol close to bedtime
  • caregiving responsibilities
  • hospitalizations
  • new medical problems
  • retirement or lifestyle change
  • more opportunity to nap during the day
  • chronic health conditions and/or chronic pain (which also increase in rate as we age)
  • death of a family member or friend
  • stress

"Older adults with insomnia were more likely to report at least two chronic illnesses compared to older adults without insomnia," Brewster says. With that in mind, along with things like "hot flashes due to menopause, increased prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders, pain," she adds, it's no wonder older adults aren't sleeping as well. (And not for nothing, many of these chronic diseases are managed with medications that can cause insomnia.)

Lastly, melatonin—which helps regulate our circadian rhythms—can be depleted by age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes, she notes, making it harder to get quality sleep.

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Can younger people set themselves up for better sleep as they age?

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According to Brewster, yes! And the best way to do it is by establishing good sleep hygiene habits early. "Start to prioritize sleep now," she says, noting first that it's important to develop and maintain a regular schedule, "especially having and maintaining a regular wake time even on weekends."

Being sure to exercise and manage stress will also help your body and mind better prepare for sleep every night, she notes. And to ensure your circadian rhythm is regular, she recommends reducing the amount of blue light you're exposed to at night.

And if you need an extra hand in your good night's sleep, you can also consider trying a magnesium supplement like mbg's magnesium+. Lots of people are deficient in it, which can cause irritability, anxiety, and, you guessed it—insomnia. But the right amounts of this mineral can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling rejuvenated.*

The bottom line.

But just because we're getting older doesn't mean good sleep has to be a thing of the past. Though insomnia tends to be more common in the 60-plus crowd, improving your sleep hygiene is a great idea at any age. Stick to your sleep schedule, and remember the ever-important basics of diet, exercise, and stress management so you can get the most out of your nightly snooze.

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