Sleep problems in later life

Impact on daily routines

One of the things we asked people when we talked to them about their poor sleep was whether having a bad night had any influence on what they might do the next day. Most people told us that having a bad night wouldn’t make any significant difference to their daily routines. However, some people did change their plans or their regular routine.
 
A few people also commented that a bad night’s sleep might have an influence on their mood the next day and make it difficult for them to get things done. Some people told us they felt very sluggish in the morning, and found it difficult to get going the next day if they had slept badly, and a few people described it as feeling like they were suffering from jet lag.
Those who did make changes to their routines following a bad night sometimes made small changes, such as trying not to fit in quite as much in the day. But some people made larger changes, such as cancelling trips or visits.
A few people, who weren’t working, and didn’t need to be up at a set time, said they stayed in bed a little bit longer in the morning and may even consider taking their breakfast back to bed.  
A few people went to bed earlier the following evening. Otto said he takes a sleeping pill to ensure he has a good night’s sleep after a night of sleeping badly. Some people found that keeping active and going for a long walk helped to cope with a bad night’s sleep. Others had a nap, or dozed off at some point during the day after a bad night’s sleep, whether they planned to or not.
Whether poor sleep impacts on people’s daily routines may also depend on whether it is a one off occurrence, or happens on a regular basis. If sleeping badly happens on a regular basis, people told us they accepted it and just got used to it, so they would not necessarily make any adjustments to their routines the next day. But whether people made changes to their routines following a bad night also depended on whether they had any other constraints on their time, such as having to get up the next day to go to work. Several people still worked part-time and even though they might have liked to have a lay in after a bad night, they weren’t able to because they had to be up early to go to work.
 
Some people told us they would not make any changes or adaptations to their day if they had slept poorly the previous night,  Even if Val has a very bad night, she knows she still has to keep up with all the things she normally does during the day like walking her dogs and looking after her grandchildren. Others felt it was important to carry on as if they had slept normally, and avoid taking a nap during the day or evening, in case this stops them from sleeping better that night.
 
Even though some people found it a struggle to keep going until their normal bedtime after a previous night’s poor sleep, most would not go to bed earlier, Peter even felt it worked better for him if he went to bed later after a bad night to ensure that he really was very tired.

Last reviewed September 2015.

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