Why it Gets Harder to Sleep as You Get Older
Phoenix Sleep Expert Offers 5 Quirky Ways for Older People to Get More Sleep
(Phoenix, AZ) Do you feel like it’s harder to get the sleep you need as you get older? Maybe you have a difficult time falling asleep, or maybe you wake up several times a night leaving you feeling exhausted during the day.
You are not alone. It’s estimated that sleep problems affect 40% of people as they age.
“Our sleep patterns change as we get older,” says Lauri Leadley, Clinical Sleep Educator and Owner of Phoenix area sleep clinic, Valley Sleep Center.
Leadley says that it’s a myth that people need less sleep as they get age. In fact, the amount of sleep that adults need remains consistent throughout their lifetime at about seven to eight hours per night.
One of the causes of our inability to sleep is that there is a biological change in our sleep patterns as we age, that makes older people spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in the deeper REM stages of sleep.
In addition, our circadian rhythm, the bodily function that regulates our sleep, tends to change as we age. While teenagers tend to need to sleep in and stay up late, older people tend to wake up earlier in the morning and become sleepier in the early evening. This pattern is called advanced sleep phase syndrome meaning the sleep rhythm has shifted forward.
In addition, some people may have physical conditions that affect their sleep such as Restless Legs Syndrome, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hypertension, and menopause, just to name a few.
It’s also not unusual for older people to wake up several times a night to go to the bathroom.
So how is an older person to combat these physical changes so that they can get the sleep they need?
Leadley offers these 5 somewhat quirky tips:
- Sleep naked. A study published in the Journal of Diabetes earlier this year found that when people slept at lower temperatures they burned more calories and reduced their risk of diabetes and other diseases. Sleeping in an environment that is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit is believed to be ideal for getting the best sleep possible. Wearing pajamas can keep the body from reaching this optimal temperature and may even lead to overheating during the night.
- Use a sunrise-sunset simulator (wakeup) light. There are many wakeup lights available that not only simulate dawn but dusk as well. The changing light levels are a sign to your body that it’s time to sleep.
- Wear socks to bed: This might sound crazy, but wearing socks just might help you fall asleep faster. While a lower overall body temperature helps you get a good night’s sleep, warming up the feet causes blood vessels to dilate redistributing heat through the rest of the body, telling the brain it’s time for sleep.
- Spray your pillow with lavender, chamomile and/or peppermint oil. Aromatherapy is a great way to relax and get some sleep. The scents can clear your sinuses and your head so you can sleep better.
- Have sex. Maybe a little excitement is just what you need to fall asleep!
If you are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about other ways to help you get a better night’s sleep as you get older.
About Valley Sleep Center
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.
Their physicians are Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists and are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. They provide diagnostic testing for a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. www.valleysleepcenter.com
Wendy Kenney, Media Relations