health

How Did You Sleep? So, So. How About You?

sleeping man 1Supposedly, the older you get, the more cranky you are about the quality of your sleep. Most of the evidence for this is anecdotal. Ask an older person how he/she slept and they typically tell you that it was lousy.

But now some researchers have really looked at this scientifically, and guess what? Your sleep pattern does not really alter very much after age 60. If you are getting a bad night’s sleep, it’s more likely due to an illness or the medications you’re on.

Most people over 65 say they have no problem sleeping, but it turns out that their sleep pattern is different from when they were younger. They tend to sleep lighter, to have brief awakenings and to sleep anywhere from a half hour to an hour less than when they were younger. Sound familiar?

sleeping man 2On the other hand, if you are enduring pain from an illness it can disrupt your sleep, which in turn can affect your health. It’s a viscious circle in which the pain is amplified by the lack of sleep.

Healthy middle-aged and older people do not have difficulty falling asleep, but as they age, it does take an average of 10 minutes longer to fall asleep. The big difference is in how many times they wake up during the course of the night. A young adult might sleep 95% of the night. Bascially, the head hits the pillow and then they wake up when the alarm goes off. By age 60, the time drops off to 85%, and sleep is broken up by wakeful moments that can be as short as 3 seconds and as long as 10 seconds. sleeping man 3If you suffer from a urinary problem, chronic pain, or restless leg syndrome, your sleep suffers as well. Researchers are just beginning to explore how this lack of sleep can increase the pain sensation, but it is already clear that fragmented sleep patterns make it less likely that you can inhibit pain. Studies of younger people indicate that fragmented sleep makes them more sensitive to pain.

So what should you do? Get some sleep. As much as you can. And if you suffer from a painful illness, get the best pain management that you can, because it will allow you to get a good nights sleep. Sleep studies are beginning to tell us that a good nights sleep can be the equivalent of a single codeine tablet. So get back to bed!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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