Why is “Sleep Well,” such an elusive goal?

Why is “Sleep Well,” such an elusive goal?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

March 13, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you encourage us to “sleep well,” but that seems to be a more elusive goal with each year of my age.  Any suggestions?      

A:  AARP Bulletin for March 2019 states, “More than one-third of adults aren’t getting the recommended 7-plus hours [of sleep] per night needed to support good health,”  so you can see that you are not alone in grappling with this problem. The article by Jessica Migala also warns that “the number of health conditions linked to poor or inadequate sleep is almost endless, with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease topping the list.”

What can help?  Here are some of the suggestions she lists (paraphrased):

  • “BLUE-LIGHT INSOMNIA”

    – The blue light that our electronic devices emit Man with insomnia looking at laptop screen in the dark“suppresses melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.” Turning off these devices – including TV – one to four hours before bedtime can help, according to Karl Doghramji, MD, director of Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center in Philadelphia.  If you cannot do without bedtime TV, he suggests wearing a pair of glasses that block the blue rays, which you can find from online retailers.

  • “STEALTH CAFFEINE INSOMNIA”

    – Okay, so you know that afternoon coffee might interfere with nighttime sleeping, but “people often have no idea that they’re consuming caffeine in other forms, like iced tea or chocolate,” says Beth Ann Malow, MD, director of the sleep disorders division of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. She suggests cutting off all forms of caffeine after lunch.

  • “NAP INSOMNIA” – If you find yourself dozing off – particularly between 2:00-3:00 p.m. – you may not feel sleepy at bedtime, leading to lying awake. Doghramji suggests scheduling something active for when you experience a dip in energy.  That can refresh you for the rest of the afternoon and also help you sleep better that night.

  • “ALCOHOL-INDUCED INSOMNIA”

    – This one may seem counter-intuitive, if sipping a glass of wine seems to relax you. Researchers have noted that although alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, by the second half of the night, that sleep is “lighter and more fragmented,” leaving a person feeling less refreshed in the morning. Stop drinking alcohol three hours before bedtime and follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and prevention:  only one drink for women and only two for men.

For the full article, including other tips for getting a good night’s sleep, visit AARP.org/bulletin.

How much sleep do older adults need?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, isn’t it true that older adults need less sleep each night?  I am in my eighth decade and still waiting for this to happen.     

A:  That turns out to be a myth!  Older adults still require 7-9 hours of sleep each night, according to Jessica Rundo, M.D., a staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. 

In an article in Consumer Reports on Health, Dr. Rundo says that sleep cycles change with age, and older adults may awaken more often during the night. 

There are health dangers related to insufficient sleep, including increased risks of falls, cognitive decline, and dementia. “Chronic insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or longer – can also occur with conditions such as anxiety and depression,” the report states.

Here are the tips provided for getting a good night’s sleep, without medication:

  • TURN OFF ELECTRONICS – At least one hour before going to sleep, stop watching TV, reading on your tablet, or checking e-mail. “The blue light from electronics suppresses melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep,” says Beth Malow, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Sleep Division in Nashville.
  • EAT WISELY – Don’t consume a large meal within a couple of hours before bedtime, to avoid heartburn. During the day, choose meals high in fiber and low in saturated fat in order to fall asleep faster and have a better quality sleep (according to a 2016 study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine). “Also, skip the nightcap.  An alcoholic drink might help you doze off initially, but when it wears off, you’ll be awake again,” the article notes.
  • GET IN A DAYTIME WALK – “Exercise boosts the effects of sleep hormones like melatonin, especially if it’s done in bright daylight in the morning,” according to Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. A 2010 study found that people 55 and older who exercised about four times a week for half an hour found it easier to fall asleep than those who did not exercise.
  • SET YOURSELF UP FOR SLEEP – Thirty to 60 minutes before bedtime, dim the lights, make sure your bedroom is cool, read a good (actual) book, and turn on soothing music (or a white noise machine), suggests Dr. Malow.
  • RETHINK THE REGULAR DAYTIME NAP – If you nap occasionally without affecting your nighttime sleep, that’s okay, but limit the nap to an hour. Otherwise, it can make it more difficult for you to doze off at night, according to Dr. Rundo

Taking sleep medicine may be risky, and not particularly effective.  Some prescription sleeping pills have been found to double the risk of falls and hip fractures in older adults. Other studies have linked sleep medicine to poorer cognitive ability and possibly dementia in people 65 or older (according to a 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine).

See your doctor if none of the above strategies works after several weeks.  You may be a candidate for overnight sleep monitoring, to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which is defined as “numerous brief pauses in breathing during sleep” (which can lead to snoring).

Sleep apnea, if untreated, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.  According to the article, “almost 80 percent of the estimated 29 million Americans with obstructive sleep apnea haven’t received a diagnosis.”

EAT RIGHT,

MOVE MORE,

AND SLEEP WELL,

FOR A HEALTHY, LONGER LIFE!

Is it true that older adults need less sleep each night? 

Is it true that older adults need less sleep each night? 

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, isn’t it true that older adults need less sleep each night?  I am in my eighth decade and still waiting for this to happen.

A:  That turns out to be a myth!  Older adults still require 7-9 hours of sleep each night, according to Jessica Rundo, M.D., a staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. Older woman sleeping

In an article in Consumer Reports on Health, Dr. Rundo says that sleep cycles change with age, and older adults may awaken more often during the night.

There are health dangers related to insufficient sleep, including increased risks of falls, cognitive decline, and dementia. “Chronic insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or longer – can also occur with conditions such as anxiety and depression,” the report states.

Here are the tips provided for getting a good night’s sleep, without medication:

  • TURN OFF ELECTRONICS – At least one hour before going to sleep, stop watching TV, reading on your tablet, or checking e-mail. “The blue light from electronics suppresses melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep,” says Beth Malow, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Sleep Division in Nashville.
  • EAT WISELY – Don’t consume a large meal within a couple of hours before bedtime, to avoid heartburn. During the day, choose meals high in fiber and low in saturated fat in order to fall asleep faster and have a better quality sleep (according to a 2016 study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine). “Also, skip the nightcap.  An alcoholic drink might help you doze off initially, but when it wears off, you’ll be awake again,” the article notes.
  • GET IN A DAYTIME WALK – “Exercise boosts the effects of sleep hormones like melatonin, especially if it’s done in bright daylight in the morning,” according to Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. A 2010 study found that people 55 and older who exercised about four times a week for half an hour found it easier to fall asleep than those who did not exercise.
  • SET YOURSELF UP FOR SLEEP – Thirty to 60 minutes before bedtime, dim the lights, make sure your bedroom is cool, read a good (actual) book, and turn on soothing music (or a white noise machine), suggests Dr. Malow.
  • RETHINK THE REGULAR DAYTIME NAP – If you nap occasionally without affecting your nighttime sleep, that’s okay, but limit the nap to an hour. Otherwise, it can make it more difficult for you to doze off at night, according to Dr. Rundo

Risks of Taking Sleep Medicines

Taking sleep medicine may be risky, and not particularly effective.  Some prescription sleeping pills have been found to double the risk of falls and hip fractures in older adults. Other studies have linked sleep medicine to poorer cognitive ability and possibly dementia in people 65 or older (according to a 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine).

See your doctor if none of the above strategies works after several weeks.  You may be a candidate for overnight sleep monitoring, to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which is defined as “numerous brief pauses in breathing during sleep” (which can lead to snoring).

Sleep apnea, if untreated, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.  According to the article, “almost 80 percent of the estimated 29 million Americans with obstructive sleep apnea haven’t received a diagnosis.”

EAT RIGHT,

MOVE MORE,

AND SLEEP WELL,

FOR A HEALTHY, LONGER LIFE!