Q I find I get up earlier than I ever did when I was younger. Is it true we need less sleep as we get older?
A According to the National Sleep Foundation, that is a myth. Older adults continue to need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. The problem many have is the poor quality of sleep, causing you to feel tired during the day. Daytime sleepiness can lead to naps, which then interfere with nighttime sleep.
Factors of Poor Sleep
Most living creatures have a natural sleep-wake cycle that is based on a number of factors. Biological factors include getting up to use the bathroom, waking to eat or drink, or your body no longer feels comfortable lying down. Environmental factors include light and noise (your ears still register sounds when you are asleep). Emotional factors also play a part in sleep.
Depression makes people want to stay in bed despite poor sleep. Anxiety makes it hard to fall asleep. Happiness helps people want to get up each morning and face the day.
Medications might interfere with your sleep. If you think this is the case, read all instructions and warnings that come with your prescriptions, even if you have been taking them for years,
and discuss with your prescriber.
OVERCOMING POOR SLEEP
Sleep experts agree that shutting down your brain at bedtime is an important daily task. Create a relaxing sleep environment (low light, quiet, pleasant aromas) and routine. Take a moment to reflect on the day while taking a few deep breaths. Tell yourself that anything running through
your mind can be handled tomorrow, and that you want to have a good night’s sleep. Focus on something you want to do tomorrow that brings joy so that you want to get up in the morning. Stretch out your limbs and relax.
Keep a Sleep Journal
If you think you are not having quality sleep, try keeping a sleep journal. Note bedtime, wake time, what you ate or drank and when, medications you take, number of times you got up
in the night, and how rested you feel. Look for trends and areas where you can make changes.
“Sleep Disorders,” available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/.
“National Center for Sleep Disorders Research: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/org/ncsdr/