Do you get enough sleep? As the world grows smaller and faster with technology, sleep is the first thing we sacrifice. Once we retire, we might assume we’ll have more time for sleep, but the fact is that elderly don’t sleep more – we actually sleep less as we age. The belief that the older we get the less sleep we need only holds true until you’re a teenager. After that, the reasons for lack of sleep are due to lifestyle, health problems and simply acclimating to functioning without enough sleep.
Let’s get the science of it all understood first. As we age, a chain reaction occurs and our bodies produce lower levels of growth hormone, which in turn can decrease our ability to achieve slow wave or deep sleep, the last stage before REM sleep. Not being able to consistently reach a deep REM sleep also lowers the amount of melatonin produced in our bodies, causing us to experience fragmented sleep, where we wake up throughout the night.
Yet another reason we can loathe whoever invented getting older. Can you remember the last age you were able to fall asleep with ease – and stay asleep all night long? I know I want to travel in time back to kindergarten and tell myself and all those kids, don’t fight nap time because it won’t be easy to sneak in a nap at the office when you grow up. Take a peek at how sleep times change as we grow.
It’s not all in your head. As you age, sleep can become less satisfying and even worse, less restorative. Does some of this have to do simply with age? Of course. But as your sleep success deteriorates or improves, it can affect your overall health. As you improve your health you can improve your sleep – and vice versa. Some reasons people may be sleeping less in relation to health issues can include but is not limited to the following:
Many of these health issues go untreated or undiagnosed simply because so many think sleep problems are a part of getting older and nothing can help them get a better night’s sleep. But treating underlying medical issues can radically improve sleep quality. Consult your doctor if you think you’re your health issues may be keeping you from a great night’s sleep.
What’s keeping you up at night? It may be a sore back or a bad hip, heart trouble or an out-of-whack knee. Whatever it is, nighttime sleep troubles can affect you from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to back to bed at night. And those sleep struggles can create disrupted nighttime sleep, leaving naps as the only alternative. Trouble is, naps can sometimes magnify those sleep challenges and disrupt sleep further.
As we age, lack of sleep is a whole lot more dangerous than a cranky day. When it comes to how long you’re going to live, there’s a lot of truth in the saying that genetics is a loaded gun – but your environment is the trigger. And sleep can be the finger that pulls that trigger. You may carry genes for a multitude of diseases, but whether you get them or not is largely dependent on how you live your life – and how much sleep you get.
While we can’t control getting older each year, we have control over how well we sleep each night. Keep these tips in mind as you track your sleep habits through the ages:
How has your sleep changed as you got older? Let us know!
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