BY KAREN WEEKS
You know you’re supposed to sleep every night, but there are many factors working against you. Between anxiety and physical discomfort, sleep can be elusive for seniors. Keep reading for more information on why your eight hours matters, common sleep disorders and ways to give yourself a good night’s sleep.
MedLinePlus.gov lists a number of sleep disorders including narcolepsy, sleep talking, sleep terrors, sleepwalking, insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. These and other issues can make it difficult to wind down after a long day or to sleep through the night. Fortunately, Medicare offers coverage for certain sleep disorders. According to Medicare.org, Uncle Sam may cover CPAP therapy and tests to determine if you’re getting enough oxygen overnight. However, supplemental coverage may be needed if you need prescription medications to manage non-life-threatening disorders.
Often, managing sleep problems is a do-it-yourself endeavor. In order to launch an effective sleep plan, you need to understand how certain factors of your life affect your ability to sleep.
Light, specifically has a direct effect on our ability to sleep. Your circadian rhythm is dictated by the sun. But since the advent of electricity, humans have tried to trick Mother Nature. Indoor lights, even light coming from another room, can keep your brain more active, making it difficult to sleep.
The air you breathe also plays a role in the restfulness of your slumber. If you have allergies or asthma, a portable air purifier is a budget-friendly way to reduce airborne particles that could have you sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. Your air purifier will be most effective if you keep your home’s HVAC system clean and change the filter regularly.
Timing is important to sleep, too
The average adult needs approximately four or five full sleep cycles each night in order to feel rested and refreshed. According to Psychology Today, an average sleep cycle lasts approximately an hour and a half and comes in five stages. This means you must give yourself adequate time to sleep, and that’s based on when you wake naturally. 23&Me, a genetics testing and reporting company, explains that your predicted wake time may be encoded into your genes and changes with age. A person in their 60s is likely to wake up naturally at 6:44 a.m. This means in order to get enough sleep, you will need to hit the hay no later than 10 p.m.
Sleep and Mental Health
Sleep does more than provide your body energy. REM sleep, especially, is paramount to your ability to think clearly and react quickly. Poor sleep can even trigger mental health disorders including depression. Neurocore, a Florida-based neurofeedback and brain training center, further explains that insomnia and other sleep concerns may also be linked with anxiety and ADHD in children and adults of all ages.
General tips for a restful sleep
● Follow a regular bedtime schedule – try not to change your bedtime from day-to-day
● Avoid nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and sugary foods in the hours before bed
● Create a calming environment with blackout curtains and a sound machine
● Use earplugs if outside noise is a problem
● Sleep alone – Today reports that a “sleep divorce” might even save your marriage
● Get plenty of exercise
● Implement a winding down routine; a warm bath, fresh cotton pajamas and 30 minutes of reading can help clear your mind
● Don’t use an electronic device in the bed
● Save important topics of conversation for the morning
No matter your age, sleep is important for your physical and mental health. Talk to your doctor if self-help measures don’t work or you still feel fatigued and sleepy during the day.