Last Updated 17 Jun 2020

Describe and Evaluate Lifespan Changes in Sleep

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Describe and Evaluate Lifep changes in Sleep As humans grow from infancy to old age there are major changes in the amount and kind of sleep experienced. Babies sleep a lot more than children and adults also have different sleep patterns and different stages of sleep. They tend to sleep about 16 hours a day. But their sleep is not continuous. By the age of six months a circadian rhythm has become established (one main sleep wake cycle). By the age of give, children have EEG patterns like those of adults but they are still sleeping more and having more REM activity.

During childhood, it is not uncommon for children to experience a variety of sleep disorders such as sleep walking and night terrors. During childhood, the need for sleep decrease, but in adolescence, it increases, to about nine of ten hours a night. Circadian rhythms also change so that teenagers feel naturally awake later at night and have more difficulty getting up early (a phase delay). Adult sleep is typically about eight hours a night, with 25% REM sleep. Childhood parasomsineas are rarer in adulthood but there is an increasing frequency of other sleep disorders, such as insomnia and apnoea.

With increased age, the pattern of sleep changes; REM sleep decreases to about 20% of total sleep time. Older people also experience a phase advance of circadian rhythms – feeling sleepier early in the evening and waking up earlier. This approach to psychology is called the developmental approach and is important in highlighting the changes across a person’s lifep. One suggestion as to why babies’ sleep patterns are so different from those of adults is that their sleep is an adaptive mechanism to make their parents life easier – daytime sleep means that parents can get on with their chores which enhances survival.

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Infants’ greater amount of active/REM sleep may be explained in terms of the relative immaturity of the brain, and is related to the considerable amount of learning taking place. The change of sleep patterns in adolescence may be linked to changes in hormone production at this age. These hormones are primarily released at night and therefore sleep patterns are disturbed leading to sleep deprivation. Hormone changes can also explain the upset to the circadian clock, which has been described as a delayed sleep phase syndrome by Crowley et al. ome researchers go as far as saying that schools should begin later to accommodate the poor attention p of adolescents in the early morning (Wolfson and Carskadon). In adults, the common perception is that a good night’s sleep is related to good health. To test this, Kripke et al surveyed over a million adults and found that there in an increased mortality risk associated with too much sleep. However, this was a correlational theory, and therefore does not account for extraneous variables. This means that a casual relationship cannot be established.

It could be the sae that underlying illness may lead to increased sleep needs and to increased mortality. Reduced sleep in old age is partly a consequence of physiological changes, but may also be explained in terms of actual problems staying asleep, such as sleep apnoea or medical illnesses. The resulting sleep deficit in old age might explain why older people experience impaired functions, for example, of their alertness. Various treatments can be used to increase sleep at night, including relaxation techniques and melatonin to increase sleepiness.

The research in this area shows that sleep patterns vary considerably with age, but these patterns are also influenced by cultural values as well as lifestyle habits (such as consumption of a alcohol, amount of exercise and so on). Tynjala et al found that sleep may also reflect cultural differences/ moreover in Korea, the mean sleep time was about 6. 5 hours (Shin et al) and the mean sleep time in Iran was 7. 5 hours (Glanizadeh et al), both supporting the view that sleep duration is shorter in Asia then Europe.

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