Sleep accounts for one-quarter to one-third of the human lifespan. But what exactly happens when you sleep?
Before the 1950s, most people believed sleep was a passive activity during which the body and brain were dormant. But it turns out that sleep is a period during which the brain is engaged in a number of activities necessary to life which are closely linked to quality of life.
Researchers are spending many of their waking hours trying to learn more about these processes and how they affect mental and physical health.
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults – 7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. No matter the reason, if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day you may: be irritable; have memory problems or be forgetful; feel depressed; have more falls or accidents.
There are many things to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some ideas:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are travelling.
- Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, if you can. Naps may keep you awake at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
- Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
- Use low lighting in the evenings and as you prepare for bed.
- Exercise regularly and avoid vigorous exercise within 1-2 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime—they can keep you awake.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.
- Remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.
When people don’t get enough sleep, their health risks increase. Symptoms of depression, seizures, high blood pressure and migraines worsen. Immunity is compromised, increasing the likelihood of illness and infection. Sleep also plays a role in metabolism: Even one night of missed sleep can create a prediabetic state in an otherwise healthy person. There are many important connections between health and sleep.
If you feel tired and unable to do your activities for more than 2 or 3 weeks, you may have a sleep problem. Do not hesitate to call us and book a consultation to get our help.
Dr. Rohan Bissoondath