It's a misconception that as people get older, their sleep needs decline. In fact, older adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, it can be harder for men and women over 65 to stay asleep throughout the night.
With age, there are certain biological changes that make sleep more difficult. Older adults can experience a shift in their 24-hour internal body clock (called the circadian rhythm) that causes them to become sleepy in the early evening and to wake up earlier in the morning.
Medical conditions and other sleep disorders can also cause insomnia. Health issues such as gastrointestinal and respiratory problems can disrupt sleep. Sleep apnea, when a person briefly but repeatedly stops breathing during sleep, can also cause insomnia.
If you regularly have trouble sleeping or feel tired during the day, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Small changes in sleep habits—such as stopping napping or cutting back on caffeine—can help. But if your insomnia is related to a medical or psychiatric condition, it's important to talk about this with your doctor and decide on a treatment plan that’s right for you.