Research shows that changing sleep patterns are a normal part of the aging process.3 “As people age, they naturally tend to go to sleep earlier but sleep for shorter periods of time at night,” says Naueen Safdar, MD, medical director at EHE Health. “Older adults are more likely to nap during the day and wake up more frequently during the night.”According to the Sleep Foundation, these changes occur because of changing circadian rhythms—older people usually have less exposure to direct sunlight, which affects the production of hormones such as melatonin and the “stress hormone” cortisol.4 This disrupts the natural circadian rhythms, leading to sleep deterioration. Although it’s a common part of the aging process, it can have a negative impact on a person’s health and well-being, Safdar says.
Mental and physical health issues, like anxiety or heart disease, also can negatively affect sleep patterns, Safdar adds. Plus, the medications prescribed for these conditions also can impact sleep.