Sleep problems in later life

Daytime sleep

Many people talked about napping, dozing, nodding or dropping off and catnapping during the day or early evening, and they often felt quite differently about it. Very often people talked about napping being an intentional daytime sleep, whereas dozing off was something they didn’t plan to happen. Some people were happy to have a nap during the day, and had many reasons why they might take a nap, or doze off. But others felt it was something they would rather not do.
For those who would rather not sleep during the day or evening, there were a range of reasons given, such as feeling it was a waste of time, or that it would mean they couldn’t do all they planned to do during the day. Several people resisted the idea of having a nap because they felt it showed they were getting older, because it was seen as something that ‘old’ people do, or that friends or family might think they were napping because they were getting older.
Some people felt that sleeping in the day was a waste of time. Many people led very busy lives and didn’t want to waste time in the day by sleeping. Several people were concerned that if they slept during the day, it might affect how they slept at night.
Those who didn’t like the idea of sleeping during the day often talked about the possible reasons for it. For example, being physically active, such as swimming or long walks, were often given as reasons for taking a nap afterwards. Others reasons for falling asleep during the day included being ill, such as having ‘flu, or a diagnosed sleep problem, such as sleep apnoea, which leads to poor quality sleep during the night. Several people talked of falling asleep in front of the television, either during the day or in the evening. In particular, some people talked about falling asleep in front of the television when they watched the news, (either the daytime news, or during evening news programmes such as News Night). Daphne explained how she tried very hard to stay awake for News Night, but nearly always fell asleep.
Some people were quite happy to take a nap during the day, either by planning to have one at a particular time, or being aware that if they sat down at a certain time of day then they would naturally doze off.
Napping after a meal was often reported. Frank said that the combination of having just had a meal and sitting down to watch the news nearly always sent him off to sleep in the afternoon or evening. Others didn’t necessarily take time out to have a nap, but did make sure they rested and if they fell asleep then that was fine.  Roy recognises that he does get tired in the day and so will often go up to bed and have a lie down.
Some older people who were quite content to take a nap, talked about recognising that they needed more rest or sleep to keep up with their everyday activities. They often felt energised by napping so that they could do the things they wanted to do in the day. People often talked about the importance of listening to what their bodies were telling them, and to take a nap if they felt tired. Some people talked about receiving advice on napping.
There are benefits to napping during the day, such as restoring alertness and promoting relaxation, as long as the nap is kept to 20-30 minutes duration. But it is important to be aware of the possible negative effects, such as affecting how well you sleep at night and a feeling of grogginess after a short nap of about 10 minutes.

Last reviewed October 2018.


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