Iowa Sleep Blog

How Sleep Changes as You Age

Monday, August 17, 2015

Getting enough sleep each night is an important part of overall health and wellbeing, as well as being something we are each completely in control of. As we progress through the different stages of life, our sleep needs change. Here are just a few of the ways our sleep habits adjust with age:


Growing newborns will spend anywhere from 16 to 20 hours asleep a day and sometimes on very irregular schedules, which can be tiring for new parents. The sleep cycles of young children are very different from any other stage in life because of the extended periods of time they spend in REM sleep – an important part of the nonstop developments happening in their brains. By three to six months old, most infants have developed a regular sleep-wake schedule.


Sleep is critical for children as they grow, and most need between nine and 12 hours of sleep each night. Although nap time can be a struggle as children mature, it is important to ensure children are getting enough shut-eye each day. Young children between the ages of five and 10 years old may also experience nighttime fears, nightmares, frequent time awakenings and sleepwalking, which can put a strain on the quality of sleep they receive. These sleep experiences decrease over time, and almost all will outgrow these tendencies as they grow up.

Teens and Young Adults

For high school and college-aged adults, sleep is especially important, as it helps to build memory and recharge after those long nights studying, but this age group is notorious for being the most sleep deprived. This age group has tendencies to drink too much caffeine and experience social jet lag from staying up late and sleeping in during the weekends, affecting their sleep schedules. During this time, it is important to develop consistent exercise habits and a well-balanced diet to stay healthy as they progress through their 20’s and 30’s.

Middle-aged Adults

Our sleep hygiene changes with us as we get older, and many adults experience difficulties sleeping because of chronic aches and pains, weight gain and menopause. A report from the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 60 percent of post-menopausal women reported not being satisfied with their sleep and reported frequently experiencing insomnia symptoms. These adults don’t get as much deep sleep, wake up frequently throughout the night, and tend to go to bed earlier at night and rise earlier in the morning.


Sleep patterns arguably change the most during this age period. For people over the age of 65, these adults may not be getting all their sleep in one steady block of time. Instead, they rely on short segments of sleep throughout the day and night. Because of difficulties falling and staying asleep, many elderly adults experience chronic sleep deprivation, causing them to nod off in the middle of activities happening during the day. It is important for these individuals to create a sleep schedule, even if it includes short naps throughout the day, and stick to it.

Our bodies are constantly changing and developing throughout our entire lives, making sleep extremely important to help keep up. No matter what stage you currently find yourself in, if you or someone you know is struggling to sleep well at night, reach out to one of the sleep doctors at Iowa Sleep to learn about what you can do to achieve a better night’s rest.