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In this video, Dr. Huntoon discusses the 4 Causes of All Health Concerns and what you need to consider when evaluating your sleep issues.
Your Medical Doctor will not look at these 4 reasons and will most likely miss the true cause of your insomnia.
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Tips for Sleeping Better as You Age
As we age we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns. We may become sleepier earlier, wake up earlier, and enjoy less deep sleep. However, disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health in our senior years as it was when we were younger. These tips can help you overcome age-related sleep problems and get a good night’s rest.
The importance of sleep for older adults
No matter what your age, sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being. For seniors, a good night’s sleep is especially important because it helps improve concentration and memory formation, allows your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system, which in turn helps to prevent disease.
Many physicians consider sleep to be a barometer of a person’s health, like taking their temperature. Older adults who don’t sleep well are more likely to suffer from depression, attention and memory problems, and excessive daytime sleepiness. They’re also likely to suffer more nighttime falls, have increased sensitivity to pain, and use more prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. Insufficient sleep can also lead to many serious health problems in older adults, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight problems, and breast cancer in women.
How many hours of sleep do older adults need?
While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most healthy adults tend to require between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that healthy older people may require about 1.5 hours less sleep than younger adults, an average of 7.5 hours per night. The study indicates that seniors sleep less even when given the opportunity for more sleep because of age-related changes in the ability to fall asleep and remain asleep.
While the results of the study may not be conclusive, it’s important to focus more on how you feel following a night’s sleep rather than the specific number of hours you spend asleep. Quality is as important as quantity. Some seniors mistakenly believe they have a sleeping problem because they go to bed expecting to be asleep for 8 or 9 hours a night, and may even needlessly start using medications to help them sleep more. Frequently waking up not feeling rested or feeling tired during the day are better indications that you’re not getting enough sleep at night and may have a sleep problem that needs to be addressed.
Keep track of what medicines you are taking and when you take them. Bring a list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregiver. Learn why you take each medicine. Ask your caregiver if the medicines you are taking could be affecting your sleep.
Caregivers may give you medicine for a short time to set up regular sleep patterns. Avoid taking sleeping medicines (also called sedatives) for long periods, unless your caregiver says it is OK. These medicines can be addicting. Over time you may find that you need more of the medicine to get the usual results, or find that the same amount of the medicine does not seem to work as well. Ask your caregiver for information about addiction to sleeping pills (sedatives) if you think this may be a problem.
Some sleeping pills have side effects including memory loss, daytime drowsiness, and falls. If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment. Do not take over-the-counter sleeping pills or pills given to you by friends. Always take your medicine as directed by your caregiver. If you feel it is not helping, call your caregiver.
Some sleeping pills can interact with other medicines such as medicines for depression or allergies. Taking some of these medicines at the same time can cause serious side effects.
Sleep Therapy: Your doctor may also suggest that you see a specially trained caregiver for sleep or relaxation therapy.
Cognitive (COG-ni-tiv) behavior therapy: Caregivers will teach you how to change your beliefs about sleep that may be causing your insomnia, or making it worse.
Sleep restriction (ree-STRIK-shun) and sleep consolidation therapy: At first, this therapy limits your sleep time so that when you do sleep, it is a more restful sleep. The time that you wake up in the morning stays the same. Your sleep time is then increased each night, until you reach a normal amount of sleep. Your caregiver may recommend that you do not take naps so that you can sleep better at night.
Medicines Two Choices for You
Working with your Holistic Chiropractor to understand what is out of balance and developing a well-rounded, multifaceted approach to address all the underlying imbalances associated with your sleep concern is important. And considering any of the following tips may be helpful in addition.
How to sleep well tip 1: Understand how sleep changes as you age
Some changes in your sleep are natural as you age. Your body produces lower levels of growth hormone, so you’ll likely experience a decrease in slow wave or deep sleep, and less melatonin often means more fragmented sleep (more rapid sleep cycles) and more awakenings between sleep cycles. As your circadian rhythm (the internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up) changes, you may also find yourself wanting to go to sleep earlier in the evening and waking up earlier in the morning. If you don't adjust your bedtimes to these changes, you may find that you have difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Older adults also tend to wake up more often during the night. Consequently, you may have to spend longer in bed at night to get the hours of sleep you need, or you may have to make up the shortfall by taking a nap during the day. In most cases, such sleep changes are normal and don’t indicate a sleep problem.
Sleep problems not related to age
At any age, it’s common to experience occasional sleep problems. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, you may be dealing with a sleep disorder:
How to sleep well tip 2: Identify sleep disorders and sleep problems
Many cases of insomnia are caused by underlying but very treatable causes. While emotional issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can cause insomnia, the most common causes in seniors are a poor sleep environment and poor sleep and daytime habits. Try to identify all possible causes of your insomnia. Once you figure out the root cause, you can tailor treatment accordingly.
Common causes of insomnia and sleep problems in older adults
The most common causes of insomnia and sleep problems in older adults include:
How to sleep well tip 3: Improve sleep habits to overcome sleep problems
Poor sleep habits, including a poor sleep environment and poor daytime habits, can be the main causes of sleep problems and low-quality sleep in seniors. In many cases, older adults develop these poor sleep habits over a lifetime but find they create more and more problems as they age. Fortunately, these habits are easy to improve.
Improve daytime habits for better sleep
Encourage better sleep at night
Keep a regular bedtime routine for better sleep
Can napping help with sleep problems?
People are biologically programmed to sleep not only for a long period in the middle of the night but also for a short period in the middle of the day. Naps can enhance visual, motor, and spatial skills, and have even been shown to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease. So, if you don’t feel fully alert during the day, a nap may be just what you need. For many people, taking a brief nap can provide the needed energy to perform fully for the rest of the day.
Experiment with napping to see if it helps you.
Some tips for good napping:
How to sleep well tip 4: Use diet and exercise to overcome sleep problems
To promote good sleep, pay particular attention to your pre-bedtime diet.
Bedtime Diet Tips to Improve Sleep
Limit caffeine late in the day
Avoid caffeine (from coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate) late in the day.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime
Don’t use alcohol as a sleeping aid. It might seem to make you sleepy, but will disrupt your sleep.
Satisfy your hunger prior to bed
Have a light snack such as crackers, cereal and milk, or yogurt or warm milk.
Avoid big meals or spicy foods just before bedtime
Large or spicy meals may lead to indigestion or discomfort. Try to eat a modest-size dinner at least three hours before bedtime.
Minimize liquid intake before sleep
Limit what you drink within the hour and a half before bedtime.
The importance of regular exercise in overcoming sleep problems
Exercise releases chemicals in your body that promote more restful sleep. There are four main types of exercise:
While seniors need some of each type of exercise, studies have shown that participating in moderate endurance (aerobic) activity can have the greatest impact on improving sleep.
Aerobic exercise helps older adults sleep better
A recent study by Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University found that aerobic exercise resulted in the most dramatic improvement in patients' reported quality of sleep, including sleep duration, on middle-aged and older adults with a diagnosis of insomnia.
The participants, aged 55 and up, exercised for two 20-minute sessions four times per week or one 30-to-40-minute session four times per week. Participants worked at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate on at least two activities including walking or using a stationary bicycle or treadmill. The regular aerobic exercise improved the participants' sleep quality from a diagnosis of poor sleeper to good sleeper. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less daytime sleepiness.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
Adding exercise to your life does not necessarily mean signing up for a gym membership. There are countless activities you can do to increase strength, improve aerobic capacity, burn calories, and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. Always consult your doctor before embarking on any new fitness program.
If you have mobility issues, you can exercise from one position, either standing, sitting, or lying down.
How to sleep well tip 5: Reduce mental stress to overcome sleep problems
Stress and anxiety can easily get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Everyone has worries and lists of things to do, but it is important to teach yourself to let go of these thoughts when it’s time to sleep.
Keep a journal to record worries and concerns before you retire.
On your to-do list, check off tasks accomplished for the day, list your goals for tomorrow, and then let go!
Listen to calming music.
Read a book that makes you feel relaxed.
Get a massage from a friend or partner.
Use a relaxation technique to prepare your body for sleep.
Seek opportunities to talk with a friend or therapist about what is troubling you.
Getting back to sleep at night
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help:
How to sleep well tip 6: Talking to your doctor about sleep problems and sleep disorders
If your own attempts to solve your sleep problems are unsuccessful, your doctor may be able to help with sleep problems due to:
Bring with you a sleep diary. Include when you use alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, and keep track of your medications, exercise, lifestyle changes, and recent stresses. Above all, don’t expect to sleep poorly as you age. Just as younger adults can solve their sleep problems, so can you.
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Advanced Alternative Medicine Center
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Dr. Richard A. Huntoon