I had a terrific night's sleep………. How about you?
Let's start day 2 of our discussion about sleep and sleep cycle patterns by looking at the common causes for sleep and rest disruptions.
Like we talked about yesterday, many cases of disrupted or unproductive sleep patterns are caused by underlying but very treatable causes.
While there are disruptive life events that can cause poor sleep, the most common causes found in the 50+ crowd fall under 3 categories:
1) Psychological issues
2) Poor sleep environment
3) Poor sleep/daytime habits
What you need to do is to try to identify all possible causes of your unsatisfying sleep and once you figure out the root cause, you can tailor treatment accordingly.
Again, like I said yesterday, make sure to talk to a sleep specialist if your issues are even close to being severe.
First, I want you to clear the emotion issues out of the air by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are you under a lot of stress?
- Are you depressed? Do you feel emotionally flat or hopeless?
- Do you struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety or worry?
- Have you recently gone through a traumatic experience?
- Are you having any financial issues?
- Do you have any health problems that you are concerned with?
- Are you having relationship or family issues?
Significant life changes like the loss of your job, death of a loved one or moving from a family home can cause added stress.
Anxiety or sadness can also keep you awake, which can, in turn, cause more anxiety or depression.
I admit, there have been times I have laid in bed at night worrying about a meeting in the morning or a financial issue I would have to confront the next day only to discover that once I woke up and met the issue head on it wasn't such a big deal to begin with.
Anxiety always takes on a much more ominous and threatening form at night.
Sometimes these issues can be difficult to surmount, it but the upside is, they are very easy to pinpoint and once you realize what the specific issue is causing you to have disrupted sleep then you can concentrate on a quick resolution leading to better sleep.
What constitutes a poor sleep environment?
Do you need to keep your fan running in your bedroom because "the soothing background noise" helps you sleep?
Have you ever tossed and turned because you were too hot, or too cold?
Are you bothered by the barking dog next door or the car alarm in the distance?
Most of us recognize that our sleep environment can greatly affect if and how well we sleep.
Spend a few days taking a look at where you sleep and what is going on in the environment that surrounds you.
Here's what to look at:
A. Bed and Bedding
B. Background Noise
C. Room Temperature
Are you doing everything you can to make your bedroom a sleep haven?
Let's take a closer look at each of these items and see if we can create a more hospitable sleeping habitat for you.
In general, we know people sleep better when lying down with ample space to move around in.
That's a no-brainer.
It is also clear that what you sleep on plays just as an important role in getting a good night's sleep.
If you are still tossing and turning on a lumpy 25-year-old queen sized mattress that doesn't provide proper body support then you can expect to wake up with a stiff neck or back and completely exhausted the next day.
Mattress experts say that consumers too often believe that ultra-firm mattresses are good for them.
But modern research on patients with back pain found this isn't necessarily true and a more resilient and forgiving mattress may lead to better sleep.
If your bed is your problem, then the first thing to do is give yourself enough room to sleep.
If you share a bed with a partner, get rid of the tiny queen size and get one large enough to give both of you room to move around in.
I have a California King and love it.
It can be an island of romance when you want to snuggle and get your "jiggy" on but it also offers enough "personal space" that you don't even know if your partner has left the room.
This is important.
You spend 1/3 of your life in bed.
Replace that old mattress this week.
Spend some time studying what type of mattress feels best for you.
Some companies even have "sleep experts" on staff to help you with your search.
Consumer Reports recently found that consumers who spent 15 minutes or more testing each mattress at the store were more likely to be happy with their purchase.
Don't be bashful.
Go get some nice new pillows too that fit you best (soft, firm, feather, foam) and will be comfortable throughout the whole night.
When choosing pillows, find the shape and construction that supports your head and neck and that feel like fluffy little head marshmallows.
It is recommended that you change your pillows regularly, at least once a year.
If you have allergies or asthma, you may want to purchase hypo-allergenic covers designed to protect you from possible allergic triggers such as dust mites.
Hey, it's better than staying up all night because you have snot running down your face.
Research at the National Sleep Foundation shows that noise levels as low as 40 decibels can keep us awake.
That means that an overzealous cricket can cause you to lose sleep, as well as the next door neighbor blasting "Metallica" on the stereo.
This research has also shown that the absence or presence of a familiar noise can have as great an impact on your sleep as out-of-the-ordinary noises.
These studies show that sirens and traffic noise from city streets can actually become soothing to longtime urban sleepers who cringe at the thought of sleeping in a serene suburban environment.
On the other hand, the absence of the tick, tick, tick of your favorite clock while you try to sleep at a hotel can become a sleep stealer as well.
If noise is an issue for you, try to block out unwanted sounds with earplugs or use "white noise" such as a fan, air cleaner or sound conditioner.
Take your favorite clock with you when you travel in order to recreate familiar sounds that help you sleep.
The same research at the NSF shows that, in most cases, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep.
Although experts fail to agree on the ideal temperature for sleep, there is a point at which sleep is interrupted due to the room temperature.
They disagree because this requirement varies from person to person.
It is also affected by the bed clothes and bedding materials selected by the sleeper.
In general, most sleep scientists believe that a slightly cool room contributes to better sleep.
That's because it mimics what occurs inside your body when your body's internal temperature drops during the night.
For good sleepers, your lowest body temperatures occur about four hours after you begin sleeping.
If the temperature in your bedroom is affecting your sleep, try keeping your room slightly cooler.
Turning the thermostat down at night kind of "sets the stage" for your body to begin its sleep process.
Sample different blankets, comforters or electric blankets to see which one keeps you the coolest and can lock in heat without feeling too heavy or confining.
If your partner is comfortable in a different temperature setting, then maybe he/she might dress in warmer bedclothes while the warmer partner might opt to go "Au Natural" or use lighter coverings on their side of the bed.
Plenty of research suggests that a hot sleeping space leads to more difficulty falling asleep, lighter sleep and increased nighttime wake-ups.
If you are cost and energy conscience like me, get a room air conditioner or heavy duty fan to cool down your bedroom.
Also, a humidifier can provide relief if you're suffering from a sore throat or dryness in your nose something that is very common in the desert southwest.
It should be obvious that our sleep cycles – feeling sleepy at night and awake during the day – are regulated by light and darkness.
Light is the most powerful regulator of our biological and circadian rhythms.
The biological clock influences when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert.
As a result, finding the balance of light and darkness exposure is important.
Bright light helps to keep you awake during the day, but in the evening prior to sleep, can be disturbing.
How do you adjust your environment so you have the most accommodating light to induce better sleep patterns?
Here's a few suggestions:
- Make sure to expose yourself to plenty of bright light during the day.
Find ten minutes several times during the day to step outside and soak up some natural sunlight.
Many times we get so caught up in our work day that we forget to leave our stuffy little cubicles.
- Add natural light to your inside environment, whether it is at work or at home.
Keep your desk or working area near the windows.
Purchase natural light bulbs for your home and office.
You can even get a light box or light visor to supplement your exposure to bright light.
- At night, start thinking dark.
As you plan on heading to bed, start lowering or turning off lights in the house, especially in the bedroom.
Research confirms that a dark bedroom contributes to better sleep.
Do not sit in a dark room watching TV then get up and head to the bedroom and turn on a bright light so you can read a book.
That just messes with your head and confuses your natural sleep clock.
At the very least, keep all lighting at night on an even balance and darken down as you approach sleepy time.
- Use light blocking curtains or shades to block outside light and to keep it dark longer in the morning.
If you have a problem with waking earlier than you'd like in the morning, then try increasing your exposure to bright light in the evening.
It may help you delay sleep onset
As little as one to two hours of evening bright light exposure can help you sleep longer in the morning.
- Make sure to avoid bright light if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
You too can become an expert at shooting straight in the dark like me.
If you have a tendency to bump into things during your nocturnal trips to the bathroom, then minimize light by using a low illumination night light.
What 3 things are causing you the most trouble in trying to get a satisfying night of sleep?
More than likely it's one of these three things:
B. Your Bed Partner
It’s a fact, Baby Boomers take longer to digest caffeine than their younger counterparts.
Avoiding caffeine is one of the first recommendations a person with sleep problems is given, however, it is even more important for us older folks.
We can take longer to metabolize caffeine unlike young children for whom it can take only a few hours.
A longer digestion time delays the effects of caffeine, which can lead to sleep disturbance.
Caffeine has been shown to be a major sleep disrupter in folks over 50.
In one study, participants not only took longer to fall asleep (over an hour in total), but also woke up more times throughout the night and slept for 2 hours less than if they’d had a decaffeinated or no drink at all.
The good news is that older people may not even need as much caffeine.
Another study showed that while older people do feel objective effects of caffeine (like increased heart rate), they tend not to feel more alert or steady.
Thus, without getting any of the benefits of hot java, there seems to be little point to drinking it at all.
There are likely to be healthier drinks (beer, wine, tequila......just kidding again) for the over-50s.
Bed partners can affect your sleep in many ways.
A partner with sleep disorders can easily impact the effectiveness of your sleep.
Have you ever been kept awake by your partner's snoring?
That can be a deal breaker sometimes.
Have you ever been jolted out of a sound sleep by your partner's restless movements?
Have you ever waked up in a sweat ball because your partner has flopped over you?
If so, you're not alone.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2005 Sleep in America poll:
- 67% of respondents reported that their partner snores
- 27% said their intimate relationship was affected because they were too sleepy
- 38% said they have had problems in their relationship due to their partner's sleep disorder
What can you do that is more successful than getting a Las Vegas divorce?
The best thing to do is start off by talking to your partner about the problem.
If he/she has not sought treatment for a potential sleep disorder, encourage them to see a doctor.
Consider ear plugs if snoring prevents you from getting a good night's sleep.
Use a white noise machine to mask the snoring.
Create a sleeping arrangement that is comfortable for both you and your partner.
And always, and I mean always, keep the lines of communication open.
I am a reader.
I have a book in the kitchen, one in the office, one in each bathroom and one beside my bed.
I love to read before I go to bed.
I also admit that I love to watch the 9 o'clock news before I go to bed and I love to check FaceBook as well.
Yes, I am one of those people.
TVs, computers, video games, work and yes sometimes books in the bedroom are sleep stealing criminals.
The NSF’s 2005 Sleep in America poll found that:
- 87% of respondents watched TV within an hour of going to bed
- 51% of us read before bed
- 28% were on the internet (probably checking out Facebook)
Doing work, watching TV and using the computer, too close to bedtime and especially in the bedroom, hinders quality sleep.
Violent or exciting (even funny comedies) shows, news reports and stories before bedtime can be agitating and disruptive to the sleep process.
Experts will tell you the sleep environment should be used only for sleep and sex.
Below is a list of other issues that may affect you getting to sleep, staying asleep or maintaining a good sleep cycle pattern.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I just wanted you to be aware of as many significant sleep stealing hooligans as possible.
- Changes your body is going through – As we age like a fine wine in our early 50's our bodies have different physical requirements and require different types of care and management. In a nutshell, there are some physical considerations with our bodies that change our sleeping patterns that we have little control over.
- Alcohol and food - Drinking a glass of wine before bed may help you relax, but there is conflicting research findings on whether it promotes better sleep.
Dinner should be eaten at least 3 to 4 hours prior to beginning your sleep process. Any spicy or rich and filling foods will slow down the effectiveness of this process as well.
- Pain or medical illness - Pain can keep you from sleeping well. In addition, many health conditions such as a frequent need to urinate, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, mellitus, osteoporosis, nighttime heartburn, menopause, and Alzheimer's can interfere with sleep.
- Health and Allergies – There is nothing worse than being afflicted with sneezes, coughing, burning eyes and a running freaking nose as you try to go to sleep.
- Medications – The over 50 crowd tends to take more medications than younger people and the combinations of drugs, as well as the side-effects of individual drugs, can impair sleep or even stimulate wakefulness.
- Lack of exercise. If you are too sedentary, you may not feel sleepy or feel sleepy all of the time. Regular aerobic exercise during the day, at least three hours before bedtime, can promote good sleep.
- Sleep disorders. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and sleep-disordered breathing—such as snoring and sleep apnea—occur more frequently in older adults.
- Learned response. People with a legitimate cause for having trouble sleeping—after suffering a loss, for example—may lie in bed and try to force themselves to sleep. Eventually their bodies learn not to sleep. Even after your original reason for sleep disruption has passed, the learned response of not sleeping can remain.
Sometimes, simple changes in attitude and lifestyle are all it takes to be a better sleeper.
In my next blog, we can chat a bit about what we can do to help develop better sleep behaviors.
If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting, or even funny, I bet your friends would to.
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..........................................................