A seemingly insatiable appetite for coffee and a fondness for alcohol is being blamed for poor sleep patterns among older Australians.

A survey of more than 10,000 people funded by the Sleep Health Foundation shows consumption of caffeine and alcohol increases steadily with age.

As a result those aged over 55 are reporting night after night of broken sleep and days characterised by fatigue, say the researchers.

Given that advancing age damages sleep quality anyway, the researchers say the findings are concerning.

“As they age, people should really be consuming less of these [substances], not more, says Professor David Hillman, a sleep medicine specialist and Sleep Health Foundation president.

The online survey shows that older Australians are averaging just under 7 hours of sleep a night, they are also waking 2.5 times a night – mostly to go to the toilet, but also because of a busy mind, body aches or partner disturbance.

Ninety per cent of survey respondents say they drink coffee, 52% drink alcohol and 15% take sleeping tablets. These figures are much higher than among younger age groups, according to the researchers.

Last Reviewed: 02/10/2015