How much sleep does a 81 year old man need?

Quick Answers

Most experts recommend that older adults aged 65 years and over should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, the optimal amount can vary between individuals. Some 81 year old men may only require 6-7 hours while others may need up to 9 hours to feel rested and function at their best during the day. The key is finding the amount of sleep that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and avoid daytime sleepiness.

As we age, our sleep patterns and sleep needs change. Older adults tend to go to sleep earlier, wake up earlier, and have more fragmented sleep compared to younger adults. Determining the right amount of sleep is important for supporting physical health, cognitive function, emotional well-being, and quality of life in older age. For 81 year old men specifically, getting adequate high-quality sleep can help promote healthy aging.

This article reviews the current recommendations and research around sleep needs for older men. We’ll cover the factors that influence sleep changes with aging, signs you may not be getting enough sleep, health risks of sleep deprivation, and tips for improving sleep quality and quantity as an older adult man.

Sleep Pattern Changes with Aging

Sleep structure and patterns change as we get older due to various biological, health, and lifestyle factors:

Circadian Rhythm Changes

The circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. As we age, the circadian rhythm shifts, resulting in older adults feeling sleepy earlier in the evening and waking up earlier in the morning. Exposure to light also becomes a weaker stimulus for synchronizing the circadian clock.

Decreased Slow Wave and REM Sleep

Slow wave sleep and REM sleep, which are critical for body repair, regeneration, and memory consolidation, decrease substantially with aging. Older adults spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep.

Increased Sleep Fragmentation

Sleep becomes more fragmented with age. Older adults are more prone to awakening throughout the night and trouble falling back asleep due to changes in circadian rhythms and sleep architecture.

Increased Daytime Napping

Older adults tend to nap more during the daytime. This can also contribute to increased nighttime wakefulness and disrupted sleep.

Medical Conditions

Various medical conditions common in older adults like urinary problems, chronic pain, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and acid reflux can also impair sleep.


Many prescription medications taken by older adults are linked to insomnia and disrupted sleep as a side effect. Examples include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, steroids, and decongestants.

Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

Some signs and symptoms that indicate you may not be getting sufficient quality slumber as an older adult include:

– Difficulty falling or staying asleep at night
– Frequent awakenings and waking up feeling unrested
– Excessive daytime fatigue, sleepiness or drowsiness
– Worsening memory, attention, or concentration issues
– Increased irritability, anxiety or depression
– Headaches upon waking up
– Consistently needing naps during the day
– Increased propensity for accidents or falls
– Lack of motivation and energy during the day

If you experience any persistent sleep problems, it’s recommended to discuss them with your physician. They can rule out any underlying medical issues and suggest treatment options if needed.

Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation in Older Adults

Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis as an older adult can have detrimental effects on health including:

Cognitive Impairment

Inadequate sleep exacerbates age-related memory and thinking declines. Sleep helps clear waste products like amyloid beta from the brain. Insufficient sleep increases amyloid beta accumulation, hastening cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease progression.

Mood Disorders

Poor and disrupted sleep increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and irritability in the elderly.

Cardiovascular Disease

Shortened sleep duration and impaired sleep are linked to increased hypertension, heart disease, and stroke risk in older adults. Lack of deep restorative slow wave sleep is thought to be a main contributor.

Metabolic Dysfunction

Insufficient sleep can disrupt appetite signaling hormones like ghrelin and leptin, leading to increased hunger, overeating, obesity, and diabetes risk.

Weakened Immune System

Sleep is critical for immune function. Skimping on sleep leads to increased susceptibility to common infections like colds and flu in the elderly.

Premature Mortality

Observational studies show older adults with short sleep durations have significantly increased mortality risk. Lack of sleep is thought to accelerate aging and disease processes.

Sleep Duration Recommendations for Older Adults

Most experts recommend older adults aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night to avoid the negative consequences of sleep deprivation. However, sleep needs can vary significantly between individuals based on factors like genetics and health status. Some older adults may feel well-rested on just 6 hours while others require 9+ hours nightly. The key is finding your optimal sleep duration.

Here’s a breakdown of current sleep recommendations for older adults:

National Sleep Foundation

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-8 hours per night for adults over 65 years old.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states older adults should sleep for 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC advises adults aged 65+ to get 7-9 hours of sleep daily.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic recommends aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep each night for older adults to minimize fatigue andfunction at your best. They note some people do fine on less sleep while others require more.

Organization Sleep Recommendation for Older Adults
National Sleep Foundation 7-8 hours
American Academy of Sleep Medicine 7+ hours
CDC 7-9 hours
Mayo Clinic 7-8 hours

While these recommendations provide a good starting point, you may need more or less sleep than these guidelines based on your individual biology and health factors. The optimal amount is the sleep duration that leaves you feeling refreshed upon awakening each day.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quantity and Quality

Here are some evidence-based tips for improving the duration and quality of sleep as an older adult:

Maintain Consistent Sleep and Wake Times

Keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule in sync with your circadian rhythm promotes better nighttime sleep and daytime alertness. Avoid sleeping in late.

Make Sure Your Bedroom is Conducive to Sleep

Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Consider blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and keeping devices like TVs out of the bedroom.

Limit Daytime Naps

While naps can be refreshing, limit them to 30 minutes in the early afternoon to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep.

Have a Soothing Pre-Bed Routine

Activities like light yoga, reading, or taking a bath can help you unwind before bed each night.

Avoid Stimulants Before Bedtime

Cut off caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, and computer/TV use at least 2-3 hours before bed.

Exercise Regularly But Not Before Bed

Regular exercise benefits sleep but can be overstimulating too close to bedtime.

Address Any Underlying Health Issues

Consult your doctor about managing conditions like chronic pain, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

Review Medications with Your Doctor

Look at switching medications that could be impairing sleep. Never adjust dosages without medical supervision.

Use Bright Light Therapy in the AM

Exposure to bright light in the morning can help stabilize circadian rhythms.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Meditation, deep breathing, gratitude journaling and progressive muscle relaxation eases anxiety.

Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI)

CBTI is a proven non-drug treatment for chronic insomnia issues in older adults.

Avoid Long Daytime Naps and Sleeping Pills

These can make insomnia and fragmented sleep worse long-term. Use as a last resort and with medical guidance.

The Importance of Prioritizing Sleep for Healthy Aging

Quality nighttime sleep becomes increasingly important as we age. Insufficient sleep accelerates physical and mental deterioration and worsens many age-related health conditions. Hence, proper sleep hygiene and optimizing sleep duration should be a priority for supporting healthy aging. For 81 year old men, aiming for 7-8 hours per night is a reasonable target, but individual needs vary. Listen to your body, notice how different amounts of sleep affect your mood, energy and wellness, and discuss any persistent sleep issues with your doctor. Implementing healthy sleep habits can help 81 year old men stay active, engaged and enjoying their golden years.


Getting adequate high-quality sleep is critical for healthy aging. For 81 year old men, most experts recommend striving for 7-8 hours nightly, though some individuals may need a bit more or less. Sleep structure and patterns change with age, so you cannot necessarily expect to sleep like your younger self. Be attuned to signals like fatigue, cognitive issues and mood changes indicating you may require more rest. Discuss any chronic sleep problems with your physician. Implementing healthy sleep hygiene practices can help optimize your sleep as an older adult man. Your golden years are a time to enjoy life, not be impaired by insufficient sleep. Treating sleep as a pillar of health can help you make the most of your elder years.

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