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Sleep better at any age

Everyone knows that different stages of your life lead to altered sleep patterns – for example, hot flashes, pregnancy pains and many others effect a woman’s sleep. There are myriad other health concerns that could be silently interfering with your sleep and you might not even be aware they are kicking keeping you awake.

Here are our tips for dealing with these stealthy sleep stealers at whatever your age: 

The 20s or 30s – Have you had your thyroid checked? New mothers typically blame sluggishness or insomnia on the demands of raising children, but the real sleep-stealer could be your thyroid as postpartum thyroiditis effects between five and 10% of women in the year following the birth of a child.

Symptoms start with mild hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which can wind you up and set off insomnia. After a couple of months of this, the condition swings back to hypothyroidism, in which a lack of thyroid hormone slows your body’s functions, leaving you feeling constantly tired. If you’re too jumpy to sleep or have extreme fatigue postpartum, talk to your doctor.

 If you’re feeling blue you can be effected in a double dose when it comes to your sleep. Not only does depression cause sleep problems such as insomnia, but the antidepressants prescribed to address depression have sleep-related side effects.

Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio, and an American Academy of Sleep Medicine spokeswoman, recommends a two-fold treatment for insomnia with depression: cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapeutic approach which can be used specifically to target insomnia and bad sleep habits, plus talk therapy aimed at alleviating depression, adding or adjusting medication as appropriate.  

The 40s – Do you find yourself waking up in the night to go to the bathroom a lot lately? It might not be a sign of aging – it could be a urinary tract infection (UTI) “Decreasing estrogen levels in the mid-40s leads to a thinning of the lining of the vagina and bladder, which makes perimenopausal women more prone to infection,” says Dr. Laura Corio, author of “The Change Before The Change.”

Talk to your doc if you notice a change in your bathroom habits.

The ability to fall into a deep, restorative sleep (called delta or slow-wave sleep) decreases in your late 40s, making nighttime awakenings more frequent.

Getting exercise can help because your muscles and tissues are repaired during slow-wave sleep. When you give your body more repair work to do because of increased physical exertion, it responds by stepping up the amount of slow-wave sleep you’ll get.

The type of exercise that’s best for triggering slow-wave sleep isn’t clear, but aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity on most days, suggests Wilfred R. Pigeon, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The 50s+ — As you age, it’s likely you’ll be taking medicines for high blood pressure or cholesterol and that can affect your sleep. Diuretics (used to treat hypertension) can necessitate nighttime visits to the bathroom. Ask your doctor if you can take your pills in the morning instead of evening.

Statins for cholesterol-control can deplete your body’s muscles of co-enzyme Q10, a natural protein required for normal functioning of muscle cells; the resulting muscle aches might make falling asleep a challenge. Ask your doctor if you might benefit from taking a co-Q10 supplement to address the aches.

At any age — If you know – or your partner tells you — you’re a heavy snorer, you should know that chronic snoring is a major sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which breathing briefly stops periodically while you sleep, interrupting and worsening the quality of your snooze time. OSA can have some heavy consequences, such as worsening or increasing the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, or stroke.

Being overweight is also a big risk factor for OSA (and weight gain is a common occurrence during menopause); in some cases, slimming down can actually cure the disorder. Talk to your doctor about your sleep issues; with treatment, you could be snoozing more peacefully in no time.

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com

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