Age-related sleep concerns

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2012 - 3:52 PM

At different stages of our lives, we're plagued by unique stresses. The good snoozing news: Solutions that go well beyond counting sheep are at hand.

Late teens

• Common stress sources: schoolwork and social pressures.

• This is the stage of circadian rhythm shifts: The ability to fall asleep shifts to later in the night just as the need for sleep increases. This age group has a hard time getting out of bed early and an even harder time attending early-morning classes. That leads to poor attention, concentration and irritability.

• Technology's bite: Young folks who are on Facebook or video games late into the night have trouble winding down for bed.

• Caffeine is a huge factor, not only in beverages and "nutritional supplements" but everything from Jelly Belly candy to potato chips, and now inhaled caffeine.

• Obstructive sleep apnea is on the rise among teens, and might be related to the rise in teen obesity.


• Common stress sources: work, finances, parenthood.

• Increased work and family obligations abound: Think 5 a.m. hockey practices, more early-morning and late-evening meetings at work.

• As many of us age, our biological clocks shift so that we go to sleep earlier and get up earlier. Sleep needs don't change, although sleep might be lighter and more fragmented.

• Many people in this age range who suffer from insomnia are reluctant to seek treatment because they want to avoid sleeping medications. People are increasingly turning to over-the-counter nonprescription agents that have some effect.

• In middle years the risk for intrinsic sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, increases. Restless limb syndrome often starts.


• Common stress sources: health-related issues and finances.

• Contrary to previous conventional wisdom, aging does not cause poor sleep. It appears that most people experiencing sleep deterioration have another underlying medical cause.

• Pain is an issue for this group. Partly as a result, there's heightened concern with those 70 or older taking a lot of medication.

• Those over 65 make up about 13 percent of the population, but consume 40 percent of the sleeping pills.

• Good news, of a sort: We used to see insomnia related to retirement in this age group, but more people are continuing to work later in life.

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