9 sleep tips for the over 50s

It’s a well-known fact that sleep is vitally important for our overall health and wellbeing – both mental and physical, whatever our age. However, it’s a very common misconception that sleep needs decline with age and, as we get older, our sleep quality declines, together with a change in sleeping patterns. Recent studies in the UK and the USA conducted on older adults, point to persistent sleep issues, leading to memory problems and impaired balance, as well as fatigue and general lack of energy.

What changes about our sleep as we get older?

Common changes include more frequent waking during the night, more daytime napping, a change in circadian rhythms (your body’s natural clock), leading to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times, and changes in hormone production. Lifestyle changes can also impact on sleep quality, for example, if you are suddenly taking less exercise. As we age, there’s a higher risk of health conditions that can impact on sleep quality - such as diabetes, bladder problems and menopause - and a higher risk of sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea and REM sleep disorder (the latter being more common in men generally and in the over 50s of both sexes).

What can help to improve sleep as we get older?

The good news is that there are all sorts of ways that we can help achieve a better night’s sleep as we age. Most of them are based on common sense and actually benefit everyone (whatever your age!) - and the most important are reviewing your bedroom environment and adjusting your daily routines. See our tips below for more details.


  1. Exercise: 20 – 30 minutes at least three days a week is ideal, if you can build a routine. A brisk walk is good, or some gardening activities. Swimming is also excellent as the water will support your body as you exercise. Pilates or yoga can also help to keep you more supple. Be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime though.
  2. Limit naps: Taking long afternoon naps can interfere with night-time sleep patterns. If you need a nap, try to restrict it to around 30 minutes.
  3. Fresh air: Studies have shown that people who get a good dose of natural daylight tend to sleep better at night.
  4. Create a good sleep environment: Sleep in a dark, quiet and cool room (check out our blog on sleep temperatures) and use natural bedding that’s temperature regulating. Wool is an excellent choice as it works with your core body temperature to keep it balanced whilst you sleep, thereby helping you get better sleep quality. Discover our individually handcrafted British wool bedding options. All our bedding is made in our own workshops in Devon - and is sustainable too.
  5. Check medications: Some medications can cause daytime drowsiness, whilst other may cause sleeplessness. Check with your doctor for advice or alternatives.
  6. Don’t worry if you can’t fall asleep: Stay relaxed - the more you worry, the less you’ll sleep.
  7. Steer away from caffeine and alcohol: Avoid caffeine from lunchtime and alcohol too close to bedtime. Alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy but can impact on the quality of your sleep, waking you up later in the night. Keep hydrated during the day but limit the amount of water you drink in the hours before bedtime, to cut down on the need to get up multiple times during the night.  Read more about how caffeine can affect your sleep.
  8. Nighttime eating: Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry. Both can lead to discomfort during the night, making it difficult to sleep.
  9. Keep regular hours: Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Keeping to a routine will help your biological clock.

Always consult your doctor or other medical professional if you are experiencing long term issues with poor sleep quality. 

Ref: The Sleep Charity (UK), National Council on Aging (USA), National Sleep Helpline (UK) 03303 530 541.