Today’s article is a guest post on a crucial element in your health and well being.

Your Secret Weapon — Sleep!

sleeping child

Sometimes we all need a bit of super power.  Some people meditate, mentally prepare, or worry.

Others nap.

It’s been proven that studying for a few hours before a test then taking a short nap results in higher test scores.  Researchers think this is because memories are organized and filed away in the brain during sleep, specifically the REM phase of the sleep cycle.

The more we learn about sleep, the more we understand just how important it is for everyone at every age.

People over 50 sometimes notice changes in their sleep patterns, and often have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting a refreshing sleep.  And more often than not, they share a bed with a snoring partner…

“People who snore always fall asleep first.”   Unknown

 

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone!”
Anthony Burgess

How Does Age Affect Sleep?

Sleep is especially important for people over 50, contrary to popular belief.  This is because a good night’s sleep improves concentration and memory, enables the body to repair cell damage, and improves the immune system, which in turn helps prevent disease.

Given how valuable sleep is, it’s funny that you don’t hear many people boasting about getting more sleep, but often hear how others did not get enough sleep.

How Is Lack of Sleep Harmful?

Poor sleep can increase the instance of:
• Depression
• Alzheimer’s and Dementia
• Daytime Sleepiness
• Falls and Accidents
• Cardiovascular Disease
• Diabetes
• Stroke
• Weight Gain
• Use of Sleep Aid Medication

How Much Sleep Does a Person Need?

Everyone is different, but most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night.

The total amount of time asleep is not as important as the quality of the sleep because waking up frequently (even when the person does not remember waking up) reduces the quality of the sleep, and its benefits.

Older people produce lower levels of growth hormones and melatonin, and this decreases the amount time they spend in deep sleep.  Their sleep cycles are shorter and they wake up more often. As a result, many older people want to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.

That’s where the powerful nap becomes a secret weapon, and helps to make up some of the sleep deprivation that is normal with aging.

Watch For These Red Flags

There are some non-normal sleep patterns.  These include:

• Frequently have trouble falling asleep
• Frequently have trouble falling back asleep after waking in the night
• Still feeling tired after waking
• Daytime sleepiness and problems concentrating
• Falling asleep while sitting or driving
• Relying on drugs or alcohol to fall asleep

Some of these abnormal sleep problems are the result of sleep disorders such as Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occur more often as people age.

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder the best thing to do is act.  Do not put off discussing your problem with your doctor.  A home sleep test is cheap, easy to use, and will likely provide you with the information your doctor needs to diagnose your sleep disorder.

What Can You Do to Get a More Beneficial Sleep?

The good news is that most people can improve their sleep with a few simple treatments.  Poor habits developed over a lifetime may have to change, but a more perfect sleep is definitely achievable.

• Be active and social by exercising, participating in groups and taking classes.
• Find someone who you can discuss your problems with and try to improve your mood.
• Get at least two hours of sunlight every day even if it is just sitting in a chair in the sun or under a light box.
• Limit any stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
• Go to sleep at a regular time every night.
• Limit liquids an hour and a half before bedtime.
• Turn off artificial light before bed.  These lights stop your body from producing melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Turn off cell phones, televisions, computers and tablets one hour before bed.  Also move any clock that lights up out of sight.
• Make sure your eReader is not backlit if you read before bed.
• Make your sleeping space as quiet, dark, cool and comfortable as possible.
• If light bothers you, try wearing a sleep mask.  If noise or snoring bothers you, try wearing special earplugs, using a white noise machine, or sleeping in separate bedrooms.
• Include meditation and progressive muscle relaxation into your bedtime ritual.
• If possible, have sex, hug, or get a massage before sleep.

cpap-cat sleeping image

How Can Naps Help?

The National Sleep Foundation says this about napping:

“More than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day…Young children and elderly persons nap…and napping is a very important aspect of many cultures. “

People are biologically programmed to sleep for short periods of time in the middle of the day, so a nap might be your secret weapon. Experiment with naps and see if they help you.

Tips for Achieving a Great Nap

• Make your nap short, between 15 and 45 minutes. This is long enough to help with memory and short enough to not mess up your nighttime sleep.
• Pick your napping spot.  Try somewhere comfortable, dark and quiet.
• Nap early in the afternoon so that you do not have trouble falling asleep at your normal bedtime.

 

cpap quote on sleep

Whether napping or at night . . .  if you get enough good sleep, you may not be able to leap tall buildings or see through brick walls, but you will improve your memory and feel refreshed!

 

About the Author: Chris Vasta is CEO of The CPap Shop and an avid proponent of spreading the word about the dangers of OSA and the benefits of sleep.

{ 0 comments }