Trouble sleeping? Here's why it's harder to sleep as you get older

It gets harder to have a good night’s sleep as you get older, sleep expert Professor Jason Ellis says (Picture: Getty)

Ever felt like it’s getting harder to sleep the older you get? Don’t worry, it’s not in your imagination.

Research shows that younger people are half as likely as older people to struggle to get to sleep either every night or once a twice a week.

According to Professor Jason Ellis, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, that’s no surprise.

Speaking on Yahoo News’ podcast Britain is a Nation of…, Prof Ellis said there are a lot of issues around ageing and sleep. 

He said: “As you get older you’re more likely to use medication which might interfere with sleep. You’re more likely to be ill as well.

“But we also know that parts of the brain that help regulate our sleep start to degenerate as we get older.

“So as you get into your sixties those sorts of things really don’t help us as much as they used to. They don’t keep us in sync the way they used to and so we are much more vulnerable to a sleep problem.”

It turns out that teenagers don’t struggle to get out of bed because they’re lazy, but because of their sleep patterns (Picture: Getty)

While older people can rest assured that their sleep problems aren’t just in their head, they also can’t point the finger at ‘lazy teenagers’, he said, because science is also behind their struggle to get out of bed.

“They’re not lazy, that’s the funny thing,” said Prof Ellis. “When we go through puberty our body clock moves back around two hours. And so we lose all of the cues to sleep, so we forget that we’re tired

“We want to go to bed really really late and get up really late.

“Now the difficulty is you’ve got to get up for school So what happens is you have curtailed your sleep, you’re not getting enough and then you binge on it on Saturday and Sunday.”

Prof Ellis’ explanation of our sleep patterns comes as poll by YouGov and Yahoo News UK revealed that one in three men and one in six women have had ‘sex dreams’ about a colleague.
To hear more unpacking of statistics about British people, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, Acast, or Spotify to listen while on the go.