What Time Do Most Seniors Go to Bed?

There is something of a cliché floating around that older Americans – including Californians – go to bed early and up early. While it is true that some older women and men do call it a night fairly early (by 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. in some instances), that is not the case for more than half of the people in the country over the age of 65. 

A study published in Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly reports that more than half of people who reach the age of 65 actually go to bed at about 11:00 p.m. and wake up at 7:30 a.m. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

About the Healthy Aging and Clinical Care in the Elderly Study

Those involved in the study described the research process in this way:

Conducted over five years, the study is among the first to provide empirical self-reported data on the timing, quality, and duration of sleep, as well as levels of daytime sleepiness in a large sample of retired older adults.

Researchers based the study on extensive telephone interviews with nearly 1,200 retired seniors in western Pennsylvania. About 25 percent said they slept less than 6.7 hours per night and experienced problems with nocturnal sleep and daytime sleepiness. The remaining 75 percent reported sleeping more than 6.75 hours, on average.

Rebutting Stereotypes Regarding Older People and Sleeping

The study rebuts other research that generally concluded older individuals do go to bed earlier (between 8:00 and 9:00) and oftentimes do not sleep well. As mentioned a moment ago, this study counters the idea that older people largely go to bed earlier at night. It is important to note that overall these previous studies did not utilize empirical data as did that reported in Healthy Aging and Clinical Care.

The study from Healthy Aging and Clinical Care also concluded that older Americans usually sleep pretty well throughout the night. The average amount of sleep on a given night for a person over 65 years of age is 7.5 hours according to the study reported in Healthy Aging and Clinical Care. Guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation indicate that person in this age cohort should get between seven to eight hours of sleep per night – which is exactly what this research indicates most of them are in fact getting.

Additional Observations From the Healthy Aging and Clinical Care Study

The Healthy Aging and Clinical Care made a few other observations of note in regard to the sleep patterns and habits of older Americans. Three of the more significant notations are:

  • Age-related sleep issues in seniors may depend largely on the health of an individual as opposed to the age of that person
  • Most older Americans do not have consistently earlier bedtimes than younger individuals 
  • Daytime sleepiness in older individuals often can be associated with medications, illnesses, and poor nocturnal sleep, and may not be necessarily associated with age

Older People and Interrupted Night Sleep

When discussing when seniors go to bed, it is logical to also visit a moment about why some older people have consistently interrupted night sleep. The Sleep Foundation has compiled information on why a percentage of older people do wake up in the middle of the night or have more restless nighttime sleep experiences. The Sleep Foundation advises:

Research demonstrates that as people age, they often experience changes in what is known as their sleep architecture. Sleep architecture refers to how people cycle through the different stages of sleep. Older adults spend more time in the earlier, lighter stages of sleep and less time in the later, deeper stages, according to a variety of research studies. These shifts may contribute to older people waking up more often during the night. It may contribute to older people having more fragmented and thus less restful sleep in some cases.

Tips for Better Sleep for Seniors

For those older Americans that have issues falling or staying asleep, the Sleep Foundation has created a checklist of steps to take to enhance sleep:

  • Exercise
  • Reduce bedroom distractions
  • Avoid substances that discourage sleep
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule
  • Develop a bedtime routine

Sleep Disorders and Health

The Mayo Clinic reports that sleep disorders can impact a person’s overall wellness in a number of different ways. Older people are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of sleep disorders. The Mayo Clinic makes note that issues or problem with sleep – sleep disorders – have the propensity to negatively impact:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Emotional health
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Safety
  • Quality of life

A sleep disorder typical is treatable. An older individual who has a sleep issue is wise to consult with his or her primary care physician as soon as possible to consider the situation and develop a plan to attempt to remedy it.