How Our Sleep Needs Change With Age

How Our Sleep Needs Change With Age

Although there is a lot that medicine does not yet know about sleep, we now know that the repair of the body, the synthesis of various substances and hormones, the structuring of memory, and our psychological listening take place during specific periods of sleep.

Sleep is not a tedious process. It has four phases, namely diving to sleep, superficial sleep, deep sleep, and -REM (rapid eye movement = rapid eye movements) associated with dreaming. Neurology Specialist Dr Ferda Korkmaz gave the following information about the sleep times required by an adult:

“While our sleep time varies with age, everyone’s sleep time is unique. It is not possible to change this. Some people need 12 hours a day; some people need 4 hours of sleep. However, the average sleep duration of most adults in society is 6-8 hours. With age, there are changes in both sleep time and sleep architecture. As people age, a decline begins in total sleep time and time spent in the dream-related sleep phase. A newborn sleeps 16 hours a day; the REM period associated with the dream is quite intense. In contrast, the baby’s 30-year-old mother sleeps for six hours a day (if lucky), and only a quarter of that time spends in REM.


From the middle age, the character of sleep changes and the decrease in sleep time. People of this age sleep less during the dream-related phase, while superficial sleep periods last longer. As people get older, they sleep earlier and wake up earlier; it is the opposite in young people. Young people stay late at night and sleep most of the day. This change is more evident in the eighties. With the daytime sleepiness, total daily sleep times can be 6-7 hours. Although these people do sleep many times a day, the sum of them rarely exceeds an hour. It is not true that older people should sleep for 8 to 10 hours a day.

The sleep time required by the person can be calculated as follows. The person needs an hour of sleep for every two hours of being awake. This changes as we age; 45 minutes of sleep is required for every two hours of awakening. In other words, “sleep debt” is accumulated for every waking hour during the day. At the end of a sixteen-hour day, a young person’s debt to the “sleep bank” reaches eight hours. In contrast, an older person’s sleep debt is only around six hours.



We know that for our body to work properly, we need to be active, sleep regularly, and eat healthily. Human beings aren’t machines. The body isn’t capable of simultaneously performing and recovering, but instead undergoes a cyclical production line of activity and rest. It is known as the circadian rhythm; the human body has a built-in biological clock to keep us ticking. Typically lasting 24 hours, our bodies undergo a regimented cycle driven by chemical, hormonal and environmental influences. It’s a rhythm that gives you that serendipitous sense of the time of day but, most importantly, sets the schedule of sleep.  Many different factors, from eating to sports, from regular rest to the stress level, affect the functioning of our body. For our metabolism and organs to work correctly, our body needs to work regularly.  The circadian rhythm comes into play at this point.  This term is known as the body’s clock in its most general definition. So, what is a circadian rhythm in a broader meaning? What does it do?

This rhythm; plays a significant role in brain waves, hormone production, cell growth, and other activities. The circadian is adjusted depending on the cycle of dark and light in a 24-hour time frame. Therefore, your sleep pattern is essential for circadian rhythm. Revised according to the light and dark cycle, the circadian clock can be disrupted when you change your sleep pattern. The average person’s sleep latency or the time it takes to fall asleep after your head hits the pillow is usually anything up to eight minutes. Once you’re asleep, the circadian rhythm enters a set of sleeping cycles to restore the body’s function and process the events of the day.

In people with circadian rhythm disorders; Symptoms such as waking up early and not returning to sleep, not falling asleep, or sleeping too much can be observed.  Among the most common circadian rhythm disorders; jet lag, fatigue, disorientation, and insomnia. Prolonged disruption of the rhythm can cause insomnia, concentration problems, and mental problems. On the other hand, this may trigger some physiological diseases by affecting the proper functioning of the body. Some studies have shown that circadian rhythm disorder can also affect the risk of heart disease and cancer.


Among the things that can disrupt the circadian rhythm are the following;

  • Working shifts
  • Pregnancy
  • Time zone changes
  • Medications
  • Routine changes such as getting up late or sleeping late
  • Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease
  • Mental health problems
  • Menopause


Since disruption of the circadian rhythm can harm you both mentally and physically in the long run, you need to rearrange the rhythm. The treatment of circadian rhythm disorder varies according to the underlying cause of this problem. If you have a physical or mental illness, it must first be treated. But in general, the goal is to recreate your sleep patterns and make some changes in your lifestyle. In this context, arrhythmia treatment may include;

Bright light therapy: You can reset your rhythm by standing around a shining light for a certain amount of time each day.

Sleep patterns: If you have trouble sleeping or wake up frequently, you can change your pre-sleep routine, for example, by adding small exercises before you sleep so that you can sleep deeper.

Lifestyle changes: Things like planning your sleep, being careful about your exposure to light, and avoiding caffeine or nicotine for a while before going to bed can help.

Medication: Melatonin, stimulants, or hypnotics can change your sleep-wake cycle. However, of course, you should do all of these under the supervision of a doctor. Avoid using any medication without your doctor’s advice.


To understand your body, use the below diagram to work when you would typically appear on a certain point in your cycle. At the end of the week or break where you do not have to get up for anything particular, test yourself and see what time you usually wake up, and then make a note of it. Once you are awake for a few hours, when do you tend to slump and feel most drowsy? At what time your body starts to retreat? Understanding your body’s circadian rhythm can be valuable in managing, regulating many aspects of your life beyond sleep.


For further contact or access to additional sleep enhancing resources, please visit

  • Baby Sleep, Feeding and Activity Guide
  • Bedtime Reward Checklist for Children
  • Sleep Journal eBook
  • Sleep Diary eBook
  • Sleep Promoting Recipes for Baby eBook
  • Gentle Sleep Solutions eBook
  • Sleep Blogs

Want to learn more about Sleep?

Check out: ‘100 Hacks to Help you Sleep Better eBook’ AND ‘How to Sleep Better: The Ultimate Interactive Guide for Improving Your Sleep’

Click here to find the book: 100 Hacks

Click here to find the book: Sleep Better


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