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Do Sleep Habits Change With Age?

Welcome to of our advice column where we try to answer all of your confounding “What The…?” questions. We’ll be getting advice from experts, but we may not always have the best answer. Feel free to share your own advice in the comments below.

Q: As a 40-something woman, I know I’m turning in earlier and earlier and rising at the crack of dawn more than ever. I’m not necessarily turning into a “morning person,” but I’d definitely say that my sleep has shifted. Is that nature or nurture? Does it matter if you’re a mom or not? And what tips do you have for a more restful sleep?

— Person Formerly Known as a Morning Person in Seattle

A: For this one we asked Natalie Dautovich, PhD, a National Sleep Foundation Environmental Scholar :

“Some people do experience a ‘phase advance’ with age,” says Dautovich. “Meaning, that they get sleepier earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. This contrasts with late adolescence when many people show a “phase delay,” not getting sleepy until later in the evening and wanting to sleep in later in the morning.”

As we age, it may become more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep because we’re more vulnerable to specific sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and insomnia, according to

Regardless of the timing of sleep or a particular condition, Dautovich recommends the following sleep tips to get better quality sleep.

• Being active and exercising during the day helps to increase your drive to sleep at night.

• Maintaining consistent bed and wake times (even across weekends) helps your body prepare for sleep.

• Avoiding lights and electronics before bed reduces unwanted alerting effects.

• Lastly, creating a bedroom environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool will help you to get restful sleep.


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