How to Get Better Sleep for Healthy Aging

Sleeping through the night becomes more difficult as we age due to the increasing number of disorders prevalent in the latter stages of life. Conversely, not sleeping enough hours on a regular basis leads to a multitude of problems, some of which lead to disease, major changes in lifestyle, and reduced mortality. Getting better sleep for healthy aging should definitely be on your list of things to work on immediately.

To be always intending to make a new and better life but never to find time to set about it is as to put off eating and drinking and sleeping from one day to the next until you’re dead. Og Mandino

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The Importance of Acknowledging Sleep Problems in Aging

Get better sleep for healthy agingSleep problems are easy to ignore.  You forget you have them until something goes wrong at work, your reflexes are slowed when driving, or your moods become irritable.  You are not easy to get along with and you forget that you really do have a sleep issue that needs to be dealt with.  What’s it going to take?  How about some more education to begin with.

I was proud of working 18 hours a day and sleeping three hours a night. It’s something now that has turned into a problem for me: not being able to sleep… having insomnia. Sean Combs
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What Does Lack of Sleep Do?

Sleep deprivation is known to cause many problems. Two problems that are extremely significant to women are hypertension and the development of coronary heart disease. As noted in my article on dementia, 80% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease were shown to have cardiovascular disease. That puts getting a sufficient amount of sleep at the top of your list of things to do to avoid cardiovascular disease and possibly Alzheimer’s. Getting enough sleep must be a priority to avoid a number of other problems as well, as revealed by various studies:

  •  Abnormal glucose tolerance in men and women (associated with diabetes)
  •  A  study of 5,500 showed that in men and women getting less than six hours sleep at night there was a 66% likelihood of getting hypertension compared to those who got from seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Presence of metabolic syndrome markers in those who were from 30 to 54 years old.
  • The immune system may be compromised, providing an opportunity for acquiring various diseases.

Mental problems cause sleep issues.Additionally, mental problems can arise as a result of not sleeping properly and cause additional issues at home, in your social environment, and at work. These include

  • Negative thinking
  • An inability to resolve problems
  • An inability to not only exercise tolerance of others but also feel empathy
  • Lacking or reduced impulse control
  • Depression
  • Headaches from stress

 

 

What is Normal Sleep for Older People?

Normal sleep patterns for older adults include changes in the traditional stages of sleep beginning with stages 1 and 2 where there is more than usual. In stages 3 and 4—slow wave sleep—there is a continuing decrease over time with total disappearance after 90, and in stage 5—that beautiful and calming REM sleep—there is a decrease that is compatible with a total sleep time decrease. This total sleep time was shown to be less as we age and to last about seven hours.

What Can Be Affecting Our Sleep

 

Can loafing cause sleep problems?

 

Unfortunately, older people have difficulty getting an average of seven hours of sleep. This can become chronic. There are many reasons for this, and among them are a number of mental and medical conditions including breathing problems, thyroid disease, heart failure, diabetes, restless leg syndrome, musculoskeletal diseases, spinal stenosis, and urinary problems.  At this point, you have probably picked up on the fact that some things that cause sleep problems are also caused by sleep problems, e.g. depression, anxiety, heart disease.  Those with certain mental illnesses, particularly those with anxiety, have difficulty sleeping.  People that worry have problems, as do people that drink alcohol before bedtime. Sure, the alcohol might help you get to sleep, but you are most likely to wake up a couple of hours into your sleep unable to sleep further.

 

What is the Ultimate Result of Sleep Deprivation

A Healthy Sleep article revealed that the health consequences of insufficient sleep in the long term, such as “diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease …may lead to a shortened life expectancy” and early death. It is also noteworthy that getting more than nine hours of sleep is unhealthy. Additionally, sleep loss can cause an increase in problems at work such as errors, productivity, and relations.

I’m very happy with my life. I am what I am. I don’t worry about anything that I can’t control. That’s a really good lesson in life. Tom Watson
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 Sleeping is easy for some!Improve Your Ability to Sleep

  • Rather than fight sleep as in just gotta see that last TV program, go to bed when feeling sleepy or tired.
  • Try to maintain a routine for going to bed.
  • Turn off your television and electronic devices.
  • Don’t go to bed worrying about anything.
  • Concentrate on something positive.
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine.
  • Talk to you doctor and get suggestions from him.
  • If anxiety, persistent worry, or being depressed is affecting your sleep, see a mental health counselor. Most mental health agencies funded by government funds provide therapy at a minimum cost. 
  • Try some white noise, such as a small fan that you can just hear, a CD with water bubbling in a stream, etc.
  • Look into manufactured devices, such as the one shown below, that help with sleep.
  • Plan activities before bedtime that relax you.
  • Avoid going to bed hungry.  I like a couple of crackers sometimes but especially if I ate a light supper.
  • Try Yoga.

In summary, it is obviously important to improve your sleep habits if you are not getting sufficient sleep.  As noted, a chronic lack of sleep can cause disease and affect your quality of life and length of life.  You will find that people don’t enjoy the consequences of your not having slept well.  They don’t deserve this and neither do you.  Please do something about it and please give me a comment below, letting me know if you have some tips for sleeping better.

 

The sleep aid device shown below appears to have helped people sleep.  Please check the device out on Amazon.com and see what they are saying about it.

No truer words!

14 Replies to “How to Get Better Sleep for Healthy Aging”
  1. Thanks for the informative review on sleep and health. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint things that cause sleep problems. If the root cause of sleeping problem is identified, solution may be available. The focus is then on eliminating the cause. I like your idea that “Don’t go to bed worrying about anything”. Sometimes it is difficult. Do you have technique on how to “Don’t go to bed worrying about anything”?

    • Yes, think about the nicest thing that happened to you that day and how thankful you are for that. If it was a particularly bad day, acknowledge that, and think about all of the positive things that happened in the past week. Much of the time worry before sleep is wasteful unless we tell ourselves we are going to do something about that worry the following day and then do it.

  2. Thank you for writing article, Tanya. I am 54 years old, and of late I do notice that I would suddenly wake up at near 4am or at 4am. After reading your helpful post, I now know there can be bad side effects to lack of sleep.

    I will try the tips you gave to improve sleep. If all else fails, I will try the DoDow device you suggested. Once again, thank you so much. It is good to be aware of what can happen when we do not get enough sleep, and better to know there are ways to help us.

  3. I have this problem frequently .. its hard for me to sleep well and when sleep I sleep too much !! after this informative articles , I will apply the information and try to set it up.

    thank you for sharing !

  4. This is a great post. Definitely a problem that is prevalent in our day and age. I often talk to women that are dealing with a number of issues that are interfering with their sleep and rest. Rest is so very important! Thank you so much for your time and energy put into writing this informative article!

  5. I have a feeling I’m not really sleeping as well as I should be, but I don’t have the best ability to tell when I actually fall asleep and how much sleep I get cause I wake up often.

    Do you have any recommendations on a sleep tracker to help me understand if I need to start really focusing on getting better sleep?

    • Hi Craig,

      I appreciate your reading my article and I have to answer that I know nothing about a sleep tracker. I will definitely look into the possibility of such.

      In the meantime, I suggest you go by how you feel when you wake up and throughout the day. Please remember though that you might need to check in with your doctor, who will be the best judge of your symptoms.

  6. Hi Tanya, thanks for this. At 56 years old it is a subject very dear to my heart and I’m lucky these days if I can get 4 hours continuous sleep. I recognise many of the problems you mention associated with lack of sleep.

    You mention a sleep aid device, but there doesn’t appear to be a link to it. It would be interesting to know more about it.

    Anyway, thanks for the guidelines and I hope it will help me to get the much needed rest that my body deserves.

    All the best,

    ASG

    • Hopefully, you will find the link to the device under the Snoopy cartoon. It is working for me. Please let me know if it works for you.

      Getting four hours of sleep is serious, and I recommend that you see your doctor if you get no response from the above. Also try meditation, which can be as simple as setting aside a 10-minute period to bedtime to focus on what you are grateful for today and what you are looking forward to tomorrow.

  7. I was having some issues sleeping lately and started to do yoga with my wife and it seems to be helping already.
    I like your list of ways we can improve our sleep. This list will be helpful if the yoga no longer works to improve my sleep patterns.
    I found the changes in sleep stages quite interesting.
    Keep up the great work and look forward to reading some of your other blogs for peeps over 50.
    Cheers
    Paul

    • Hi Paul, and thanks for reading my sleep problem post. Yoga is an excellent tool for many things, including sleep, and I appreciate your sharing that. I will add it to my list!

      Tanya

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