Everyone knows that proper sleep is important to overall health. Getting a good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory, and refreshes your immune system, which can also help to prevent disease. Of course after a long active day of work and play we need to allow the body and mind to rejuvenate and get ready for the next day. Some people seem to need more than others for some reason. For those 50 and over, the impact of less sleep is a little different from for millenials.
As I think back to when I was in my 30s, a good night’s sleep was just automatic. I didn’t have to think about it. After a day full of activities it was just natural that i would fall asleep and never wake up during the night. Now after marriage and three children and years of experiences, a full night’s sleep seems like a dream. I would love to go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am feeling refreshed every day. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
I also remember how much exercise I got during that time. I was a mailman – not the kind that drives around in a jeep going from mailbox to mailbox like a bee seeking nectar as it moves from flower to flower. Back then I left the post office walking with a bag of mail on my shoulder going from business to business and house to house in the Little Five Points area east of Atlanta. I walked and walked all day long delivering mail and getting plenty of exercise at the same time. I climbed stairs every day because in that neighborhood most of the houses didn’t have mailboxes on the street. Needless to say, I didn’t need to go to a gym after work. However, during this time in my life I was obsessed with playing tennis. I played almost every day, sometimes even on days it rained. So exercise was an important part of my daily routine and helped me go to sleep easily.
Now I usually fall asleep watching TV before 10pm, wake up about 11:30pm or midnight and try to go back. After sleeping a few hours, I’m back up again for whatever reason; usually to go to the bathroom around 2am to 3:30am.
What is normal sleep?
In general most adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night in order to maintain good health. However, the way you feel in the morning is more important than getting a specific number of hours every night. The best sign that you are not getting enough sleep is waking up the next day feeling tired and sleepy, even irritable.
Getting a good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory, and refreshes your immune system, which can also help to prevent disease.
How does age impact sleep?
Studies have shown that as we age our sleep patterns change for various reasons. Older people tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening but also have a habit of waking up earlier than most. Some also wake up frequently during the night and have fragmented sleep.
As we age, our total sleep time becomes less and less: babies sleep an average of 16 hours per day; adults, 7–8; and people over 60 years of age, about 6.5 hours per day. Also that part of the sleep cycle when we are in a “deep sleep” is shortened as we age.
Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Insufficient sleep can also lead to serious health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight problems.
Actions To Take For More Sleep
Luckily there are a lot of things you can do to try and get more sleep. However, don’t forget to consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes or taking some sort of medication. Some things you can do in no particular order are listed below.
- Engage in regular aerobic exercise during the day to promote restful sleep.
- Keep your activity level up by engaging in a social club or take a class and learn something new.
- If you’re retired, try volunteering or working a part-time job.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
- Remove devices with iights from the bedroom like phones, tablets, etc.
- Try a different mattress or pillow.
- Attempt to keep a sleep schedule that is consistent.
- Sleep with a dark mask over your eyes.
- Download an app to your phone and listen to soothing sounds.
- Change your diet to include more fruits and vegetables that aid in sleep
Getting proper rest and a good night’s sleep is essential to overall good health. Without it your body is subject to health problems including diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Consistent poor sleep can also shorten your life expectancy. Don’t hesitate to consult your personal physician before taking any medications or starting a strenuous physical regimen. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep study and discuss the results with you and make some recommendations.
There are many things you can do to sleep better based on your personal circumstances. It could be increasing physical activity, watching less television, changing your eating or drinking habits or updating your bedroom with a new mattress, pillow or simply lowering the thermostat and making your room cooler. Make sure you review the links and resources below for more information about getting proper sleep.
Resources and Links
Below are a few links to products that promote better sleep. There are also some resources that include articles you can read and get more information that pertains to your particular situation. Please take some time to review the products and articles below to see if they can benefit you and your sleep situation.