Sleep Problems Forever in 16 Easy Steps.
have been a problem for nearly everyone at some time in their life,
but seem to increasingly become more difficult as we age. Sleep
problems or lack thereof have also been identified as a pretty good
indicator of mental and physical health. Everyone may have a problem
now and then. Situational anxiety, stress, grief or illness, may
interfere with restful sleep, causing sleep problems to arise when
insufficient, excessive or poor quality sleep becomes routine.
sleep problems and insomnia seem to feed on themselves somewhat.
Several sleepless nights can lead to significant fatigue during the
daytime requiring daytime naps, which may become disruptive to your
sleep-wake cycle. Also, the resulting anxiety, nervousness,
irritability and problems concentrating may also make your normal
daily routine a nightmare.
As people grow
older, some experts believe that they need less sleep and that they
may spend less time in the deepest levels of sleep. Frustration may
become a large problem when you spend your time staring at the clock
for long periods of time in the middle of the night.
According to a
recent study in Geriatrics in 2004, it was noted that over half of
adults over the age of 65 experience sleep problems not because of
their age but because of other factors associated with the passing of
years. Depression, memory problems, falls, and generally a poorer
quality of life in older adults can be the result of chronic
insomnia. Difficulty sleeping can lead to many problems in the way
the body functions in everyday life. In her book Successful Aging,
Mary OíBrien M.D. recommended 16 easy steps to try for three weeks,
which is how long she states that it takes to develop a new habit.
16 tips to eliminate sleep problems forever:
Get up and go to
bed at the same time every day.
Use the bedroom
only for sleeping or lovemaking. Eat, write, read, or watch TV
Keep the bedroom
cool, dark, quiet, and clean.
to get physically tired every day but avoid exertion after dinner.
Keep caffeine to
a minimum and have it before noon.
bedroom routine (e.g. hot bath, skin care, selecting tomorrowís
Relax with a
period of quiet time, soft music, or reading before going to bed.
Keep a clear
If you canít
sleep, donít stay in bed. Get up and read or putter around the
to stay up until youíre really sleepy. Donít go to bed at 8 p.m.
just because youíre bored.
Donít eat tomato
products, greasy snacks or spicy foods if they give you heartburn.
Heartburn gets worse when you lie down, and can make falling asleep
difficult. The discomfort of heartburn can also awaken some people
in the middle of the night.
before bedtime to limit awakenings during the night to urinate.
If noise is
disturbing your sleep (say, the rumble of passing trains or your
partnerís snoring) consider earplugs, rugs or drapes to muffle the
sound, relaxing music or tapes.
Make sure your
mattress is comfortable or supportive. Some good ways to know if
you need a new mattress: You wake up with your back aching or you
sleep better when youíre away from home.
Itís always a good
idea to ask your aging family members if they are having any sleep
problems. Itís difficult to have good physical or mental health
without rejuvenating, restful sleep. Also, several conditions
including lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, hyperthyroidism,
prostate problems and hot flashes may impair your sleep. Thus, it is
important to recognize that an underlying medical condition could
actually be an important indicator of a sleep problem.
adapted from Successful Aging by Mary OíBrien, M.D.
Additional Information and
webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate