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Why People Over 50 Have Trouble With Sleep (And How CBD Can Help)

Did it feel like when you hit 50, quality sleep became harder and harder to come by? This issue is actually very common, and it’s estimated that 40-70% of older adults have sleeping problems, with nearly half of those problems undiagnosed. These problems shouldn’t be ignored, since chronic sleep issues can be dangerous and are associated with physical and mental health-related quality of life.

In this article, we’ll talk about why so many adults over 50 struggle to get quality sleep, as well as some research-based tips that may help improve sleep, including taking a look at how CBD can help. 

Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons that older adults have trouble sleeping:

Accumulation of Chronic, Physical Health Challenges

It’s no secret that growing older means that health challenges are more likely, and it’s common for chronic health issues to start piling up on each other. As new chronic conditions arise, it can make it harder, and harder to sleep, especially because many of the health challenges older adults face could interfere with regular sleep on their own

Common, chronic conditions that can impact sleep in older adults includes:

  • Chronic pain (especially from conditions like osteoarthritis)
  • Frequent urination caused by overactive bladders or enlarged prostates
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD)

Any one of these conditions could present a challenge to sleep, but if you happen to have multiple conditions, then getting consistent sleep may be close to impossible.

Increased Use of Prescription Medications

With increasing health complications also comes more prescription medications, and research suggests that up to 88% of adults aged 62-85 have at least one prescription medication. Unfortunately, many of the common medications used by many older adults can also have a direct impact on their ability to get good, quality sleep. 

For example, common medications like antihistamines or opioid pain-killers can cause daytime sleepiness, which can make it hard to fall asleep at night. Medications like pseudoephedrine and corticosteroids can have a stimulating effect, which can make it difficult to feel drowsy enough to fall asleep at night. 

Some medications can even make certain pre-existing conditions worse. For example, certain kinds of antidepressants can make restless leg syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS) much worse. 

If you have multiple chronic conditions that require multiple prescription medications, you may find yourself stuck in a cycle of trying to find a way to get the sleep your body needs.

Substance Abuse (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine)

Older adults need to be careful about the kinds of substances they use, especially if they struggle with substance abuse. Research is clear that substances like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine can have a negative impact on your sleep. Too much caffeine can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, while nicotine has been casually tied to insomnia symptoms.

Alcohol use may help you fall asleep, but will also make it more likely for you to wake up in the middle of the night, which can impact getting quality sleep. It’s actually better for your overall sleep to not drink alcohol, and instead look to other methods to help you fall asleep (which we’ll take a look at a bit later in this article).

Intensive Caregiving to Younger or Older Family Members

An often overlooked factor to getting good, regular sleep is whether or not an older adult is also taking care of younger or older family members. For example, in the United States, 43.5 million adults provided unpaid care for older or younger family members in 2015, and 20% of those adults were 65 years old or older.

How can caregiving impact your sleep? Intensive caregiving can be physically straining, emotionally straining, and may come along with unpredictable, erratic schedules. Caregiving for older adults has been shown to trigger depression, which can also impact the quality of sleep you receive.

The cycle of physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, and fighting depression can create a negative feedback loop, making it challenging for caregivers to have the consistent schedule and mental wherewithal to get consistent, rejuvenating sleep.

Social Isolation and Loss of Motor Function

The older you get, the harder it is to move around. This is a common challenge for many older adults (for example, in 2009, Medicare, a federal health insurance program in the United States, reported that 30% of enrollees needed assistance with basic activities for daily living.

The loss of basic physical function is associated with increased problems with insomnia and day-time sleepiness. The National Sleep Foundation did a survey and found that older adults that had mobility limitations were far more likely to report issues with insomnia and sleepiness during the day.

While the sleep issues could be tied to the physical issue that is limited mobility, it could also be tied to the social isolation that comes along with having problems with basic movement.

Losing a Loved One (struggles with grief)

It’s no secret that older adults will experience the grief of losing a loved one more frequently, but the impacts of that grief shouldn’t be ignored. Experiencing intense grief as an older adult has been connected to failing health, and unresolved grief makes it more likely for someone to develop mood disorders (like anxiety issues). Substance abuse issues even become more likely.

Dealing with grief in healthy ways is important, but the older you get, the more likely you are to experience intense (and frequent) grief.

Insomnia Caused by Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

RLS can affect people of any age, but it becomes more common the older we get. If you’re unfamiliar, RLS is a disorder that creates an uncomfortable sensation in your legs, creating the urge to move it. Upwards of 20% of older adults may struggle with RLS, and RLS can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and may be a contributing factor to daytime sleepiness.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD)

RBD is when someone acts out their dreams and otherwise moves and walks around during REM sleep. This disorder is more common in older adults, especially older men with a neurodegenerative disorder. It’s common for those who struggle with RBD to report sleep disruptions, which impacts their overall ability to get consistent, quality sleep.

How to Improve Sleep After 50

We know that there are a lot of issues that can make sleep challenging later in life, but there are ways to help improve sleep! Keep in mind that, since there can be multiple reasons someone after 50 may struggle to sleep, there may be multiple solutions that are needed, too. 

The following are some research-backed solutions to helping your sleep improve:


Even in older adults, exercise has been shown to be a huge asset to quality sleep. In a 2012 study looking at adults over 40, researchers concluded that exercise provided “moderately positive effects” on how well participants slept. They went on to say that exercise could either replace or be used in conjunction with other therapies to help adults get better sleep.

Note: You should always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, especially if you have underlying medical issues that could be made worse with the sudden introduction of exercise.

Cognitive Therapy

If the reason someone is struggling to sleep is because of chronic mental health or emotional issues, then cognitive therapy (or “talk” therapy) may help. In a 2015 study, researchers found that cognitive therapy was effective in treating comorbid conditions that were exacerbating insomnia.

While the biggest benefits of cognitive therapy were seen with psychiatric conditions, the study did note a mild to moderate improvement of all underlying issues, including medical ones, that may have been impacting sleep.

Try Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces, generally at night, that is tied to the “sleep-wake” cycle in humans. Melatonin is available as a stand-alone supplement to help people sleep, and there’s some evidence that suggests it can help.

In a 2007 study examining the effects of prolonged-release melatonin, researchers found that there was a beneficial effect on the restorative value of sleep. The research also showed that there didn’t appear to be withdrawal symptoms or “rebound” insomnia when subjects stopped taking melatonin.


CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid naturally found in hemp. CBD has grown in popularity over the past several years as its legal status has continued to loosen around the world, and as more research comes to light about the benefits of CBD.  

It turns out, CBD can potentially help with a lot of health challenges, especially health challenges that older adults may face. Specifically, research suggests that CBD can help with:

If you struggle with any of the common reasons older adults struggle with sleep, then CBD might be a solution. The effects are mild, and there aren’t any known complications of taking CBD long-term.

Before trying CBD, make sure to talk to your doctor first. CBD can interact with certain kinds of medications, so you should always make sure CBD is safe to use before trying a product.

How to Use CBD to Improve Sleep

If you decide you want to try CBD to help improve your sleep, there’s a few factors to consider before you jump in. Fortunately, the PhenoLife experts are well-versed in all things CBD, so we can take you through the ends and outs of how to get started with using CBD to improve your sleep.

Be Patient and Consistent

Just like with any natural supplement, it takes time to feel the best effects from CBD. Some feel mild effects quickly, while others won’t feel anything when they first try CBD. If you have CBD products that have high bioavailability (or absorption), you’ll feel the benefits faster than using a lower-quality CBD product.

It’s common for CBD to take a couple weeks of consistent use before you start to feel the best benefits. Be patient and consistent, and don’t be afraid to increase your initial dose as your body gets used to the CBD.

Choose Your CBD Formula

Not all CBD formulas are the same, and a catered formula might provide better results than a general CBD mix. For example, if the primary reason you struggle to sleep is because of chronic pain, then a CBD formula designed to specifically target pain may be the best choice.

You may not be sure what is causing you to have issues with sleep, or it may be multiple reasons (which is more common in older adults). If you aren’t sure what to target, you can always start with full-spectrum CBD formulas, like PhenoLife’s original CBD formula.

If you’re curious about catered formulas, our selection provides a great example of what you may come across. We have CBD formulas that target pain, anxiety and stress, as well as general sleep issues.

Choose How You Take CBD

Once you have an idea of the kind of CBD formula you want to take, you’ll need to consider how you want to take CBD. Keep in mind, you don’t have to pick one form of CBD. You can combine different CBD intake methods to get a broader range of benefits. 

There are three primary methods to get CBD into your bloodstream: inhalable forms, ingestible forms, and patches:

Inhaled CBD

Inhaled CBD is a very common way to take CBD. Usually, CBD liquid is contained in a cartridge, which is heated by a battery and turned into vapor, which is inhaled. CBD will get into your bloodstream quickly by inhaling it, which may make it a great solution if you struggle to fall asleep. 

However, if you have trouble staying asleep, you may want to combine inhaled CBD with another solution, since inhaled CBD typically only provides benefits for around four hours. If you’re unfamiliar with inhaled forms of CBD, PhenoPen is a high-quality example.

Ingested CBD

You can also swallow CBD, which is also a common way to take it. Swallowing CBD means it can take longer to feel the effects, but the effects tend to last longer (usually around 6-8 hours). You’ll want to be sure to get an ingestible CBD product that is designed to withstand your digestive system, since your stomach acid can destroy a lot of the CBD before you absorb it. 

If you aren’t familiar with ingestible forms of CBD, PhenoGel is a high-quality example.

CBD Patches

Finally, CBD patches are a newer kind of CBD product. Instead of inhaling or ingesting CBD, your body absorbs it into the bloodstream through a transdermal patch that is applied to the skin. While it can take upwards of an hour for the CBD to make its way into your bloodstream, patches offer the best bioavailability levels and the longest lasting benefits (8+ hours).

If you’re unfamiliar with transdermal CBD patches, PhenoPatch is a high-quality example.

What about CBD Lotions?

CBD lotions are great for skin, and research even suggests it can help soothe some skin disorders, like eczema. However, unless the CBD is on a transdermal patch, it won’t make its way through your skin into your bloodstream. That means CBD lotions won’t provide the benefits to pain, anxiety, or sleeping that other forms of CBD will provide.

Sleep Problems at 50 (and Sleep Solutions)

We’ve talked a lot about why adults over 50 may have trouble sleeping. Those reasons include:

  • Accumulation of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of prescription medications
  • Substance abuse
  • Loss of mobility leading to social isolation
  • Grief caused by the loss of family or friends
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

We also talked about some solutions to sleep issues, including:

  • Regular exercise
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Melatonin
  • CBD
  • A combination of these solutions

And remember, if you’re thinking about making any significant changes to your routine, like adding exercise or trying CBD, make sure you talk to your doctor first.

If you’d like to try CBD, then PhenoLife is a great place to start. All of our products come with a Certificate of Analysis, so you have proof that our products are as advertised and free from impurities. If you have questions, reach out to us! Our team of experts would be happy to make sure you don’t have any questions before you start shopping.

Ready to take a look at what we offer? Take a look at our online store, and see which PhenoLife product might be the best fit for you!

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