Despite the generation gap, the elderly may have more in common with their grandkids than you think. Namely sleep. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as the younger folks.

“Ninth grader through high school should be getting approximately nine hours per night,” says Dr. Jose Colon, sleep specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Senior citizens are in the same range.

“In our seventies, in general, they get about seven hours a night now, plus a daytime nap,” says Dr. Colon.

That nap puts sleep quantity right where the national institute of health states it should be. Between 7 and 9 hours for young adults and the elderly. But there’s an age divide when it comes to the quality of senior’s sleep.

Older people tend to get sleepy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. Many report sleeping less deeply and waking up more. Sleep fragmentation is a common complaint.

“There are many things that occur that cause sleep fragmentation. Whether it is because of pain or increased incidence of sleep apnea, medical disorders, reflux, other medications that also can fragment sleep,” says Dr. Colon.

Doctors can perform a sleep study to see if there are any underlying disorders, like apnea, that are keeping people from getting rest. The older we get, the more we depend on those naps and that’s alright- to a point.

“In the elderly, many times we do get less sleep at night and we may need to supplement with a nap or so during the daytime. But taking a nap either too long or too late is going to cause problems with sleep onset, because you don’t have that sleep drive,” says Dr. Colon.

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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.