Sleep is one of the most essential elements required to keep the human body fit. Each body organ needs enough rest to be able to function properly. During sleep the body gets the much required rest. While we were kids, we enjoyed a sound sleep of 7-8 hrs. But with age, we tend to sleep lesser. It is now a proven fact that the older we grow the lesser we sleep. There are numerous theories which illustrate the cause behind this phenomenon. Lets find out why we sleep less with age.
Before getting in depth of the theories lets first understand the stages involved in sleep.
Stage 1- Light Sleep
During this first stage, eyes movement slows, followed by slowing down of brain activity and muscles began to relax. A person can be easily woken from light sleep stage.
Stage 2- Deep Sleep
The body prepares to move into the stage of deepsleep. The eyemovement stops completely, brain and muscles activity even slows down. The body relaxes completely and heart rates slows.
Stage 3&4-Low wave sleep
Its a state of deep sleep and it gets hard to awake a person from this. The body gets maximum rest during deep sleep. Muscle repair and rest to all body organs is attained in this state of sleep.
REM : Rapid Eye Movement
As the name suggest the eyes remain closed but moves from side to side rapidly. This is when the dreaming occurs during the sleep. The brain is active but the muscles remain in relaxed state.
Usually the sleep patters are like stage 1 – stage 2- stage 3 &4 – stage 1- REM.
Why sleep goes down?
Sleep Architecture changes:
The primary reason responsible for decrease in sleep is the amount of time body remains in stage 3 & 4 deep sleep decreases. As we grow old, the body usually remains in light sleep stage and finds it hard to retain deep sleep stage due to no. of factors , dropping health , medication etc.
Timing of body function changes: Another vital reason is timing of circadian rhythms which controls the timing of different body functions. Its because of these changes we find our grand parents get sleepy in the evening and wake up early.
Neurological changes: In recent times, there have been no. of studies that links decrease in sleep with age to neuron changes in brain.
Some theories concludes that the neuron that transit signals to brain that body is sleepy reduces with time. Which is why older people doesn’t sleep enough as their brain cannot decide when the body is sleepy.
On the contrary, there have been theories which say that neurons remains constant throughout the life span while its the receptors in brain who read those neurons gets weak with age. You can consider this as an antenna which cannot catch the signal which is present.
Inspite knowing all these causes of why ages people find it tough to remain sleepy for long hours, there hasnt been a lot of remedies to cure this. People still rely in sleeping pills to get some extra hour of sleep. May be in coming years combined efforts of scientists and doctors may provide some effective remedy for this.