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Sleep Expert Reveals Switching Up Your Sleep Style as You Age

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Are you noticing changes in your sleep quality as you get older? Sleep expert James Higgins has revealed why this may just be the case.

The CEO of Ethical Bedding, the UK’s only BCorp-accredited sustainable bedding company, says that understanding the evolution of our sleep needs as we age is vital for maintaining optimal health, with each decade bringing its own unique set of challenges that affect sleep.

“Adapting to these changes is essential for overall well-being,” James explains. “Consider our 20s, a time of life transitions like starting university or a career, along with a vibrant social life and those inevitable late nights. These factors often result in erratic sleep patterns.

“During this critical period for physical and mental development, it’s crucial to aim for 7–9 hours of sleep. Regular sleep patterns at this stage are not just about rest; they’re about building a strong foundation for future health.

“In your 20s, it’s wise to moderate alcohol consumption, especially before bedtime. While social events often involve drinking, too much alcohol can significantly disrupt sleep quality. Alcohol may initially induce drowsiness, but it often leads to non-restorative sleep, impacting both mental sharpness and physical energy the next day.

“Additionally, I recommend a digital curfew. This helps lessen the impact of blue light from screens, which can disrupt sleep by inhibiting melatonin production. So, it’s wise to limit late-night social media browsing or texting.”

“As we move into our 30s,” James continues, “the complexities of balancing a career and possibly starting a family come into play. This can lead to increased stress, impacting sleep quality. Side sleeping can be more comfortable, especially for new mothers, as it helps alleviate back pain and pressure on the spine, which are common postpartum discomforts. A bamboo mattress with more than 2,000 pocket springs will respond independently to the body’s movements, for example.

“Entering our 40s, the changes in our sleep become more apparent,” James said. “Sleep becomes lighter and more fragmented, a result of ageing and reduced sleep-inducing hormones, leading to diminished deep sleep and more frequent awakenings.

“Back sleeping can assist in maintaining spine alignment, and a hybrid mattress can provide the needed support. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise is crucial, as it can offset some age-related changes in sleep. Regular exercise promotes better sleep in older adults by reducing stress and anxiety, improving physical health, and facilitating deeper, more restorative sleep stages, which can be disrupted by age-related changes.”

James continued: “In our 50s, hormonal changes significantly impact sleep,” James points out. “Using menopause as an example, we know that these changes can disrupt the body’s internal thermostat, leading to night sweats and hot flashes, which in turn can disrupt sleep. Managing temperature fluctuations is key, so consider breathable, moisture-wicking sleepwear and bedding.

“Additionally, using extra pillows for side or back sleeping and creating a relaxing bedtime routine are effective strategies to combat these challenges. To further improve your chance of sleeping through the night, use blackout curtains.”

“In your 60s and 70s, adapting to further changes in sleep patterns is essential,” James advises.

“Sleep becomes more fragmented and lighter, a normal part of the ageing process as the body’s internal clock shifts. I’d advise making sure the bedroom is easily navigable, especially if getting up at night becomes more frequent. As well as this, consider buying a bed that can be adjusted for comfort due to issues like acid reflux or snoring.

“Maintaining physical activity and a consistent sleep-wake cycle becomes increasingly important in your 70s as the pattern or structure of sleep – encompassing light, deep, and REM stages, changes.

“With age, there tends to be a decrease in deep sleep, which is essential for physical restoration. This can result in lighter and more disrupted sleep patterns. To counter this, regular physical activity is crucial, as it can promote deeper sleep stages.

“Creating an environment conducive to sleep, such as using softer mattresses for better support and ensuring the bedroom is safe and easy to navigate, is key. Additionally, exploring options like adjustable beds and specialised mattresses to cater to specific health needs, such as arthritis or chronic pain, can also be beneficial.”

“For those over 80,” James concludes, “it’s important to address sleep issues with healthcare professionals. Again, customised or adjustable beds offer comfort and ease of movement, while consistency in sleep routines and addressing any underlying health issues are key to maintaining sleep quality. Remember, it’s always good to consider personal comfort and any specific health conditions when tailoring your sleep environment.”

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