What age guarantees the best night's sleep?

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·6 min read
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Research has revealed Brits get their best sleep at the age of 24. (Getty Images)

You might think of your twenties as being an age when your sleep suffers, but turns out Brits are enjoying their best shut eye in that decade.

In fact according to new research, the best sleep is experienced at the specific age of 24, with things taking a turn for the tired after that.

Nearly half of adults reckon they slept better during their youth, while only 24% think sleep has improved as they’ve aged.

The study also found 37% of those polled had the worst sleep of their lives between the ages of 25 to 54.

In fact, more than half (55%) of the 2,000 people polled about their slumber by health and wellness company dōTERRA said they “rarely” or “never” get enough sleep.

The most common obstacles to a good night's sleep are family worries, work stresses and room temperature, the research found, but age itself also seems to be having an impact.

Read more: These viral sleep hacks could solve your shut-eye

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Turns out age has an impact on sleep quality. (Getty Images)

Commenting on the results, sleep expert Dr Lindsay Browning said: “As the findings suggest, the quality of our sleep can be impacted by a number of things, and there are likely several reasons why younger people may enjoy their sleep more than older people, including level of fitness.

“It might also be possible to surmise from the findings that post 25 years of age, life becomes more stressful. This added anxiety could explain why sleep may not be as good after our youth.

“We have a lot of distractions to keep us busy, and that’s another reason people aren’t getting enough sleep – maybe people just aren’t prioritising it.”

The findings in the survey echo those from other large-scale sleep research.

One 2018 study, published in the Nature and Science of Sleep, found that sleep patterns and distribution undergoes significant quantitative and qualitative changes.

"Older adults tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep," the research reveals. "This period of life is often accompanied by a circadian shift to a morning chronotype, as opposed to the evening chronotype change during adolescence, that results in early bedtime and rise time."

Research suggests that the need for sleep may not change with age, but it is the ability to get the needed sleep that decreases with age.

"The increased frequency of sleep-related disorders in the elderly population contributes to much of the sleep deficiencies observed in this population," the research explains.

"Inadequate sleep in the elderly could also be related to other factors, such as life changes (eg, retirement, physical inactivity, decreased social interactions), age-related changes in metabolism, and environmental changes (eg, placement in a nursing home)."

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Studies have linked age to poorer sleep. (Getty Images)

Read more: Sleep calculator reveals precise time you should go to bed to not feel tired in the morning

Further research, published in the BMJ, identified four different sleep types: ‘good sleepers’ (68.1%, most frequent in middle age), ‘inefficient sleepers’ (14.01%, most frequent in old age), ‘delayed sleepers’ (9.28%, most frequent in young adults) and ‘poor sleepers’ (8.5%, most frequent in old age).

"We found that sleep quality generally decreases across the lifespan, most strongly for sleep efficiency," the research reveals.

"We found that younger adults are more likely than older adults to display a pattern of sleep problems characterised by poor sleep quality and longer sleep latency, whereas older adults are more likely to display inefficient sleeping, characterised by long periods spent in bed while not asleep."

Researchers also revealed that the probability of being a ‘good’ sleeper, unaffected by any adverse sleep symptoms, decreases considerably after age 50.

That's something echoed in research by The Sleep Charity who found that age appears to be a key factor in sleep, with older people generally experiencing problems nodding off more often than their younger counterparts.

More than a third (34%) of 45-54-year-olds experience 12 or more bad nights’ sleep a month, closely followed by those of retirement age at 65 and older (33%) followed by 33-54-year-olds (32%).

The soundest sleepers are those aged 25-34 years old, with less than a quarter (24%) reporting consistent issues with sleep.

“It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age," explains Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity.

"It’s not about needing less sleep, but unfortunately, as you get older, sleep quality declines and you may therefore experience a change in sleeping patterns."

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There are ways to ensure you get a good night's rest. (Getty Images)

Read more: Woman shares therapist's trick for falling asleep when you’re tossing and turning

Artis says some of the common problems older people are experiencing include more frequent wakings in the night, a loss of non-REM stage 3 sleep (which means sleep is less refreshing), more daytime napping, less of a drop in body temperature during sleep as you age, change in circadian rhythms leading to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times and lifestyle changes.

“Studies have shown that changes in production of hormones, such as melatonin and cortisol, may also play a role in disrupted sleep in older adults," she continues.

"As people age, the body secretes less melatonin, which is normally produced in response to darkness that helps promote sleep by coordinating circadian rhythms.

“As you get older, there’s also a higher risk of health conditions that can compromise sleep for example pain, heart disease, diabetes and bladder problems. Equally some medications can cause sleep issues.

“Older people are also more at a risk of a handful of sleep disorders too, such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome and REM sleep disorder."

So are we doomed to more sleepless nights as we blow out more candles on the birthday cake? Not necessarily, says Artis.

“There are all sorts of ways in which older people can help themselves to a better night’s sleep – all of them are really based on good old-fashioned common sense such as taking a look at the bedroom environment," she advises.

"Mostly it’s just a case of adjusting daily routines as sleeping patterns change – and trying to limit the cat naps!

“The best way to determine if you’re getting enough quality sleep is to look at how you feel the next day. If you’re feeling tired and fuelling yourself with caffeine then chances are your sleep isn’t optimal.”

Watch: Over half of adults are losing sleep, here's why...

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