Most adults find that getting a solid night’s sleep becomes harder as they get older. But that’s not all that changes—sleep patterns and the amount of rest you need look a lot different at 70 than at 17. Here are some tips for getting the most out of hitting the hay.

Basics of sleep

Sleep is the body’s recovery period, a time when its functions slow down, the nervous system becomes less active, muscles relax and cells have an opportunity to rebuild. Sleep is an essential part of health, enabling our brains to recover and re-energize from the day.

Age-related changes that result in reduced sleep duration and quality can have serious ramifications.

Sleep stages

The body typically goes through five sleep stages. Stages 1 and 2 are lighter; 3 and 4 are deeper. In the last stage, we move on to the state of rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep. It is characterized by rapid eye movement, shallow breathing and temporary limb paralysis. It’s when we wake or are woken from REM sleep that we most commonly remember dreams.

After the REM stage of sleep, the cycle repeats throughout the night.

A sleep cycle is typically 50 minutes for children and 90 to 100 minutes for adults,