AGING AND SLEEP
You are aging and you may have noticed that some of your sleep patterns have changed over the years. You are going to bed and waking up earlier than in your younger years. It takes you longer to fall asleep. Maybe you are more sensitive to noise. Maybe you are experiencing periods of insomnia.
“Changes in the patterns of sleep – what specialists call “sleep architecture”- may contribute to sleep problems. Sleep occurs in multiple stages including dreamless periods of light and deep sleep, and occasional periods of active dreaming (REM sleep). The sleep cycle is repeated several times during the night and although total sleep time tends to remain constant, older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep.” Thus, disturbances in the environment such as conversations, the audio of a television or too much light may keep us from falling asleep. So, the effects of a poor night’s sleep causes problems. These include daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, increased risk of accidents and an overall reduced quality of life.
Older adults may also produce and secrete less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. As people age, they can experience an increase in medical problems. People in poorer health tend to have more sleep problems. Conditions such as restless leg syndrome, snoring and sleep apnea and certain medicines or caffeine consumption may affect the quality of sleep.
Upon going to bed for the night, aging adults may lay awake for long periods time. Thirteen percent of men and thirty six percent of women over 65 report taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Additionally, older adults may awaken frequently during the night due to an underlying physical or psychological condition. If this is the case, it is important to consult with a physician.
Mindfulness exercises may help reduce insomnia. A simple technique to relax is to focus awareness on the inhalation and exhalation of breath. Others include repeating a calming phrase or chant can result in deep relaxation and sleep.
ADJUSTABLE BEDS ARE BETTER
Your mattress comfort will also contribute to a better night’s sleep. You must choose the correct mattress for your body that allows for the proper support and comfort. This reduces tossing and turning. As people age, an adjustable bed is a wonderful option to support ease of mobility in and out of bed, reduce snoring, aid in circulation, and provide comfort. Many people in the 30’s and 40’s are already choosing an adjustable bed to support their healthy sleep habits.
Additionally, it is important that the atmosphere of the bedroom is conducive to rest. Block out light from windows using curtains. Make certain that the temperature is comfortable and that extraneous noise is eliminated and that the bed is of optimum quality.
A good night’s sleep is vitally important to physical and mental well- being throughout every stage of life including the ‘golden years.’