Sleep behaviour during your life

It’s almost time again for the whole family to sit together under the Christmas tree – grandparents, teenage son, young daughter and your partner. Grandma and Grandpa have already been on their feet since the early morning, whilst the older son remains in the land of nod until midday. He’s barely awake when the grandparents disappear for a little nap. But the son is now full of energy – whilst his little sister is fighting slowly glazing eyes despite the excitement and joy. How do these different levels of energy come about? And what does it have to do with sleep behaviour or age?

Our sleep behaviour is anything but constant throughout our lives. The need for sleep and sleep phases change and problems with sleeping tend to increase. Babies, for example, dream for up to 8 hours, whilst it is only around 1.5 hours per night for adults. You will learn how sleep behaviour and sleep quality change here.

Infants – Development during sleep

Anyone with a baby knows that babies require a lot of sleep – an awful lot of sleep. Newborns actually sleep for up to 16 hours a day. It is important for their development, as they have a lot of growing to do both physically and mentally.
The human body clock usually requires almost 6 months to develop. Until then, the majority of infants have quite an irregular sleep pattern. It helps, even at this age, to create regular routines. Try to get up at the same time in the morning, to feed at regular times and to put your child to sleep in the evening at the same time. Feed at night under a dimmed light and then avoid playing with the baby. Playing monotone noises such as the whirring of a washing machine or a car also helps lull them to sleep.

Children – Preparation during sleep

Over the years, young children learn to sit, run and talk – and things also change somewhat in terms of their sleep: they now “only” need around 9–11 hours of sleep. During this time, their brain is able to process and store a lot of new impressions from the day. In contrast to adults, young children often fall asleep without any problems and relatively quickly.
Parents should help their children, even when they are young, to acquire good sleep habits. For example, this is possible with a routine prior to bedtime: a sleep routine learned early on can prevent problems with falling asleep in adulthood.

Teenagers – hormone change during sleep

Those with teenage children know that puberty changes the body clock. Adolescents tend to stay up later in the evening and then sleep longer in the mornings. This is due to a biological idiosyncrasy – one that unfortunately often clashes with the hours of the school system. Adolescents still require more sleep than adults, at around 8–10 hours per night, as their bodies are dealing with the change in hormone levels. The different rhythm of weekdays and weekends also significantly influences sleep quality and the ability to concentrate.
Talk to your children about the possible consequences of sleep deprivation as they are often unaware of them.

Adults – more time to fall asleep

Do you notice that you find yourself deep in sleep after just a few minutes, whilst your partner needs almost an hour to find their way to the land of nod? In adulthood, the differences in the time it takes to fall asleep between individuals are very significant. Maintaining a regular sleep pattern can help you fall asleep more quickly in the evenings. It also helps to only go to bed to sleep and to avoid consuming any caffeine or alcohol a few hours before going to bed. Relaxation exercises may also be useful to reduce stress and help you fall asleep more quickly.
There are individual differences here and there. Adults require an average of 7–9 hours of sleep to be rested the next day.
In previous centuries, young adults usually slept considerably longer than today. In industrialised countries, the duration of sleep has dropped from 9.5 to 7 hours. Unfortunately, the human brain still has not managed to adapt to this reduced sleep duration, therefore some adults suffer from a chronic sleep deficit.

60+ – shallower sleep and less of it

Do you always get up early in the morning, yet complain of problems falling asleep in the evening? Unfortunately this is often the case … because increasing age decreases the need for sleep. From around 60 years old, we only require around 7–8 hours of sleep. Often, we spread sleep out across the day as we get older, for example with a nap in the afternoon, and thus reduce the need for sleep in the evening. As a result, we need up to an hour in the evenings to fall asleep. In this case, an evening walk can help, as movement and fresh air ensure that the body is tired.
As we no longer sleep as deeply when we are pensioners, our waking threshold is then lower and we are prone to being disturbed by noise. The decrease in phases of deep sleep means that we are not as rested as younger adults. A darkened and quiet bedroom is then particularly important.
BICO would like to wish both old and young restful sleep and a merry Christmas!