Older adults do not sleep as well as younger adults. Why? What alterations in sleep quantity and quality occur as we age, and are there functional consequences? What are the underlying neural mechanisms that explain age-related sleep disruption? This review tackles these questions. First, we describe canonical changes in human sleep quantity and quality in cognitively normal older adults. Second, we explore the underlying neurobiological mechanisms that may account for these human sleep alterations. Third, we consider the functional consequences of age-related sleep disruption, focusing on memory impairment as an exemplar. We conclude with a discussion of a still-debated question: do older adults simply need less sleep, or rather, are they unable to generate the sleep that they still need?
Mander BA, Winer JR, Walker MP. Sleep and Human Aging. Neuron. 2017 Apr 5;94(1):19-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.004. PMID: 28384471; PMCID: PMC5810920.