Getting a good nights’ sleep is crucial for mental and physical wellbeing. However, many of us still struggle to get to sleep or get sufficient sleep. Whilst finding a comfortable sleeping position is important, sleep hygiene starts long before we get into bed.
How much sleep do we need?
The short answer is that most adults sleep between 7 to 9 hours a day. However not everyone sleeps that long at night and many people like to take a nap during the day. All over the world people swear by a siesta, it gives them the energy and refreshment to carry on and get about their business after a nap. Others say staying up during the day and then retiring at a regular time is the best way to get the sleep they need.
Of course, there are some conditions, medications and stresses that interfere with a good night’s sleep. Medical conditions that arise more commonly with ageing can certainly disrupt sleep. Some of the conditions that make it more difficult to sleep are pain from any cause, indigestion, breathing difficulties caused by lung or heart problems, arthritis, urinary incontinence or nocturia (the need to get up at night to empty your bladder) and some neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease can interfere with sleep too.
Anxiety and depression can have an adverse effect on our sleep patterns too. You might have trouble getting to sleep or waking too early and then unable to go back to sleep. Sometimes dementia of all sorts can cause problems with sleep too. It is well known that about two thirds of residents in aged care have sleep problems. This may be related to exercise, medications, and lack of sunlight.
How to diagnose and treat sleep problems
Are you a snorer? Do you have sleep apnoea? Do you have insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep). Poor sleep can lead to drowsiness during the day, lack of concentration and ability to think straight, and grumpiness, so if this is you it is good to do something about it.
The first place to start is your GP and then you might be referred to a sleep specialist or a sleep psychologist. There are many different treatments for snoring, sleep apnoea and insomnia so ask your doctor to help you out.
Sleeping tablets can be effective in the short term in getting you to sleep, but not necessarily keeping you asleep. The effectiveness also wears off over time, so using them for no more than four weeks is advised. Sleeping tablets can cause problems when used with alcohol or other drugs too and some can cause a “hangover” effect in the morning.
What can help – some tips and tricks.
- Getting a bit more exercise and sunlight during the day.
- No computer just before bed.
- No blue lights.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine.
- Don’t go to bed too early or on a full stomach.
- Keep a routine around bedtime, make sure you relax before going to bed.
- Keep distracting things out of the bedroom.
These tips and tricks aren’t new but using them might improve your sleep and then you will feel new!
We’d love to get your thoughts on what you do to get a good nights’s sleep at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about sleep in Episode 16 of The Better Ageing Podcast:
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