How to Sleep like a Baby

Are you craving a good night’s sleep?  Do you toss and turn willing your brain to shut off?  Or do you immediately fall asleep and wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed a few hours later?  Studies confirm that sleeping problems increase with aging.

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Medical Conditions that Can Interfere

According to specialists and geriatricians, there are numerous medical conditions that get in the way of a solid night’s rest.  Among the most common conditions:

Nighttime rest problems are a significant risk factor for falls in the elderly, simply because they tend to get up out of bed for various reasons.  Physicians are reluctant to prescribe sedatives or sleeping pills as studies show that they significantly raise the risk for falls.  So, what can be done to promote rest?

Recommendations to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

Diwakar Balachandran, M.D., medical director in the MD Anderson Sleep Center  suggests ways to get better rest. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/healthy-sleep-habits.h13-1589046.html

 

  • Set a consistent night schedule. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
  • Create regular bedtime rituals. Do the same thing every night before bedtime, like take a warm bath, read or listen to music. Your pre-sleep activity should be relaxing so your body knows when it’s time to go to sleep.
  • Get regular exercise. Make sure you exercise at least two hours before bedtime though, or it may be difficult to fall asleep.
  • Keep a healthy diet. Meals just before bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. But, a small snack just before bedtime tends to promote rest.
  • Limit caffeine and avoid nicotine. Limit caffeine intake to less than two servings per day, and don’t drink after noon. Tobacco users who break the habit usually are able to fall asleep faster and sleep better once withdrawal symptoms subside.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a sedative that slows brain activity. While it may induce sleep, it interferes during the night, causing you to wake up frequently and have nightmares. It’s best to not drink alcohol four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Limit liquids before bed
  • Keep naps short. During the day, you build up a “sleep debt” that helps you fall asleep at night. Naps during the day pay off that debt, interfering with your night rest. If you need to nap, limit it to less than 30 minutes.
  • Use your bedroom for sleep only.
  • Don’t eat or watch TV in bed.
  • Don’t use electronics – laptops, cell phones or tablets – in bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool.
  • Turn your alarm clock away from you.  Glancing at it only creates anxiety

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Medical Treatments May Help

Healthline.com suggests investigating the following medical interventions:

  • continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to treat sleep apnea
  • antidepressants to treat insomnia
  • dopamine agents for restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder
  • iron replacement therapy for restless leg symptoms

 

For more information:

https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep/sleep-disorders-in-the-elderly#sleep-therapy

https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/healthy-sleep-habits.h13-1589046.html

https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/518832

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/fashion/sundaystyles/cant-sleep-read-this.html?searchResultPosition=2

 

 

For more by Virginia Tortorici, click here.

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