Do you ever have one of those days when you wake up and you feel like you haven't slept at all?
Or maybe you feel like you have slept "hard."
No guys, I don't mean that.
What I mean is you actually spent more energy sleeping and are waking up more tired than when you went to sleep?
Maybe you are at a loud sporting event and you can't help yawning constantly?
Maybe you are getting up several times during the night because there are things on your mind or maybe you just have to pee a lot.
It's mornings like this that I ask myself:
"What the hell is going on?"
I have never had any problem sleeping my entire life.
In fact, if I could get away with it, I would sleep all of the time.
There is just too much fun in life to spend my time asleep.
Seriously though, I almost always slept very well and almost always woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world.
But now-a-days, it’s a crap shoot.
Some days I sleep like a baby, but other days my sleep is a "hot mess".
So, I have been researching the subject of "sleep after the age of 50" and have found that virtually everyone, and I mean everyone has, at some time experienced the same issues as me.
In most cases, the problems are more severe than I have had.
I don't know if that makes me feel any better, but it sure will help me sleep better at night… just kidding, again!!
For the next few days, I will become your "Sleep Guru" and we'll dig into what are normal sleep cycle patterns for Baby Boomers.
- Why do sleep disruptions occur as we get older?
- What are the possible causes of these changes in our sleep patterns.
- What can we do to get back to "sleeping like babies?"
For most adults over 50 these sleep cycle issues can disrupt everyday life and leave them wondering
“Is this just a normal part of getting older?”
Sleep is just as important to our physical and emotional health in our retirement years as it was when we were younger.
Even though my sleep issues are minor, I say ""I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
So, let's look at a little background on sleep cycle patterns and behaviors for us beautiful people over the age of 50.
As we age, we experience normal changes in EVERYTHING WE DO.
- Our eating behaviors change
- Our sexual nature evolves
- Our personality becomes more pleasant (in most cases)
- Our outlook on life is transformed
- Our goals and priorities adjust
- Our physical capabilities alter
- Our sleeping patterns change
Have you experienced any of these issues?
- You become sleepy earlier
- You become a sleepy half way through your day
- You wake up earlier
- You wake up several times during the night
- You dream less (REM sleep)
- You enjoy less deep sleep
As with other normal bodily functions, the efficiency of the brain in carrying out its sleep-related functions begin to decline over time.
You probably first noticed a change in your 40's.
But it may not be until we reach our 50's or 60's that we realize we have some sleep problems.
You might be tempted to assume that poor sleep is a reality of reaching old age.
Remember, although these changes may be happening because we are getting older they ARE NOT A NORMAL PART OF AGING.
The good news...........
The most current sleep research shows that the reasons most Baby Boomers might not be sleeping well are not as critical as you would think.
We can readily recapture the effective sleep we enjoyed in our youth.
The first thing experts will tell you about how long to sleep is that there is no "magic number."
Not only do different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also personal.
Just like any other characteristics you are born with, the amount of sleep you need to function best may be different for you than for someone who is of the same age and gender.
While you may be at your absolute best sleeping six hours a night, someone else may clearly need nine hours to lead a happy, productive life.
1. Basal sleep need – the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance
2. Sleep debt - the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes.
Two popular studies suggest that healthy adults over the age of 50 have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours every night.
Where things get complicated is the interaction between the basal need and sleep debt.
For instance, you might meet your basal sleep need on any single night or a few nights in a row.
But you can still have an unresolved sleep debt that may make you feel more sleepy and less alert at times.
Things get even more complicated when these issues occur in conjunction with circadian dips.
These are the times in the 24-hour cycle when we are biologically programmed to be more sleepy and less alert, such as overnight hours and mid-afternoon.
You can become overwhelmingly sleepy quite suddenly at these times.
Research suggests that our accumulated sleep debt can be worked down or "paid off."
Though experts are still debating about the amount of basal sleep we need, they do confirm that sleep deprivation can:
- Inhibit your productivity and performance
- Effect short term memory
- Reduce your ability to consolidate information
- Intensify minor pain
- Lead to serious health consequences
- Jeopardize your safety and the safety of individuals around you
- Affect your personality and endanger personal relationships
In a 2003 National Sleep Foundation poll, 67% of adults aged 55 and older reported frequent sleep problems.
In the NSF findings, poor sleep in our baby boomer generation was associated with other health, weight, and/or mobility problems.
So what happens to us physically as we get older?
- As we enter our 50's, the brain produces less and less Melatonin (a hormone produced by the Pineal Gland) that regulates sleep at night and alertness during the day.
- Our sleep patterns naturally shift to earlier in the day.
- Growth hormone production also decreases.
- There are also changes in the body temperature cycle.
For example, baby boomers may normally begin to fall asleep earlier in the night—at 8 p.m. on the couch after dinner, for example.
Because of this, they may begin to wake up earlier, at 3 or 4 a.m.
We develop a pattern and all of a sudden we wake up in the dreaded category of "morning people".
You know… those people (dammit I'm one of them) we have always hated because they wake up bright and chipper even before their first cup of coffee.
Why does this happen?
1. The phases of our circadian rhythm shift leading us to go to bed earlier and subsequently wake up earlier.
2. In addition, we have experienced a decrease in exposure to natural light. Our lifestyles have changed as we have aged and we are spending more time indoors. Maybe our tolerance for the sun, heat and inclement weather has lessened.
3. Our diets have changed
4. Our exercise and physical activity have slowed.
5. Some researchers theorize decreased mental stimulation may also lead to the changes in our sleep cycles.
Falling asleep because of changing sleep cycles isn't the only complications Baby Boomers may face at night.
Sleep also becomes more shallow, fragmented and variable in duration as we hit our 50's.
We baby boomers wake more frequently than younger adults.
Recent research suggests that the aging bladder can contribute to this.
I can attest to this.
Just check out my blog "The Nighttime Tango" from earlier in the year to find out why my kidneys that are the size of peas and my prostate is the size of a basketball.
You guessed it......
You are always freaking tired.
Then daytime sleepiness follows.
Everything gets screwed up, right?
There's one more intriguing factor that can be a reason why your sleep cycles may be confused.
Believe it or not, your changes in sleep behavior may be due to payback for what we all used to do as adolescents.
That's right, all of that staying up late and partying hard all of the time may be catching up with you.
I have to believe it simply because I survived my past and I know, in a fuzzy sort of way, what damage I did during my college and post college days.
There are natural factors in aging, exhibiting themselves more and more during the Baby Boomer years that may affect our healthy sleep patterns.
It’s important to remember that many healthy 50+ individuals have no or few sleep problems on a consistent basis.
But, like I said earlier, persistent trouble falling asleep, waking up repeatedly during the night and/or frequent drowsing by day is not the norm or inevitable because of age.
Sometimes, our age-related changes mask other harmful underlying sleep disorders.
What's the best way to tell whether your daytime drowsiness is a result of a sleep disorder, sleep deficit or depression?
Consult a professional sleep specialist.
I hope you get a good night's sleep and can join me.
If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting, or even funny, I bet your friends would too.
It's easy to tell them about it.
Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.
The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!
Thanks for joining me..........................................................