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
The Importance of Acknowledging Sleep Problems in Aging
Sleep 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
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.
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
- 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
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
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.