Sleep problems in later life

Attitude to sleep

When we talked to people about their sleep, we asked them whether sleep was important to them or not. Some said sleep is very important and linked to other aspects of health and wellbeing, others only thought of it as being important if it didn’t happen, or if lack of it impacted on daily routines.
Those who felt sleep was very important often said it was as important as having a healthy diet. Many people were conscious of trying to eat healthily and also included making sure they had good sleep in their attitudes to a healthy lifestyle. Margaret believed that a good night’s sleep was the most important thing that we do in terms of healing, followed by eating. Robert called it ‘the battery.’ Good sleep was considered to be essential to psychological well-being, as well as physical well-being. Ronald said that ‘life would be very difficult without regular sleep’.

Those who thought sleep was important often said it was because they were aware of how well they felt when they had a good night’s sleep, and knew they would feel better if they regularly had a decent amount of sleep at night. Others were aware of the effect of not having enough sleep, and how it made them feel in the morning. Daniel, who considers sleep is important for health, believes that the quality of the sleep you have is more important than the amount of sleep.
Juliet, who has several health conditions, saw sleep as being important in terms of managing her overall health, and does what she can to ensure she has enough sleep. Peter felt that it was important to sleep at night, because it helped him to not sleep during the day, so that he could get on with what he needed to do.
However, some people had mixed feelings about sleep. Although they did acknowledge the importance of a good night’s sleep, they often felt sleeping was a waste of time, largely because they would much rather be doing other things instead. So although they understood that sleep was something that had to be done, they would potentially avoid it, or sleep less if they could get away with it. For these people, sleep was only important in terms of enabling them to do everything they needed to do during the day. As a consequence of this, they would only be concerned about their sleep if they weren’t able to complete their daily routines.
Occasionally people would tell us that sleep is not at all important, or that they didn’t think about sleep at all. This was usually because it was either seen as a waste of time, or that lack of it wasn’t really a problem. Sleep was also seen as being less important in retirement because there isn’t the pressing need to get up in the morning to go to work.

Last reviewed September 2015.


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