Everyone looks forward to a good night's sleep. Without enough restful sleep, we can become irritable, inattentive and more prone to accidents. Adequate sleep is essential to good health and quality of life.
As we age, our bodies produce lower levels of growth hormone, and melatonin, which can result in shallower, fragmented sleep and more awakenings between sleep cycles. Many find themselves wanting to go to sleep earlier in the evening and waking up earlier in the morning. Adjusting to these natural changes can help with a better quality of sleep.
Many older adults often have more trouble falling asleep, sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night, however. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss. Researchers showed that just one week of sleep deprivation altered a subject’s hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates.
This is not an inevitable part of normal aging, however. In fact, many healthy older adults report few or no sleep problems.
If you are depressed or struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety or worry, counseling and/or medication may be needed. Other health problems, medications or recent traumatic experiences may contribute as well.
If regular, restorative sleep has become a problem for you, try making simple changes in your sleep and lifestyle habits. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Short naps during the day can help, as well as avoiding caffeine or large meals later in the evening. Exercise can boost your mood and reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Bright sunlight helps regulate melatonin and your sleep-wake cycles, so keep curtains open during the day.
In addition, the relaxation and restoration provided by professional massage can be of particular benefit in reducing stress that might be impacting sleep.
If your sleep does not improve, you may have a sleep disorder. Your doctor can help identify and treat these conditions. He will also know whether a change of medication can make a difference. Whatever you do, don’t just accept being tired as part of getting older.