Many of us start to experience sleep problems as we approach our middle years. For women, this may begin with the onset of menopause when hot flashes can really wreak havoc on a good night’s sleep. Men may begin to experience apnea at this stage of life. Certainly major disruptions should be addressed by your doctor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says adults in midlife and beyond should continue to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. 10% of Americans—approximately 30 million people—are affected by chronic insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep for 30 days in a row or more. Genetics plays a role in how much sleep you need. So does your preference for waking early—which means your internal clock runs faster—and being a “lark.” Or having a slower internal clock—being an “owl”—and going to bed later. This varies from person to person, and that’s ok!
Here are some pretty simple steps to determine your sleep needs and reset your routine for a better night of rest.
1. Ask: Are You Sleepy?
Do a little self-evaluation. How tired are you during the day? When do you feel most alert? When do you get droopy? If you fall asleep during the day, you are likely not getting the sleep you need. Listen to your body’s cues.
2. Track: Dear Diary...
It can be really helpful to track your sleep time in a diary. You’ll begin to see patterns emerge. Keep it simple—just the time you go to bed, and the time you wake up. Then add any “wake-ups” during the night, and how long you stayed awake. Also note if you napped—even for a short time—during the day. This will help you be more aware of your needs and if you do need to consult a physician, gives them a place to start.
3. Take a Sleep Vacation
Sound like heaven? Choose a two-week period (maybe even on your vacation), and pick a consistent bedtime. Then sleep until you wake up without an alarm. The first few days may be much longer than usual. This is your body paying back its sleep debt. Eventually you will establish a pattern of sleep that should range from 7-9 hours. And you will have established the amount of sleep that’s right for you.
4. Think of Sleep Like Eating Healthy
It has to be a priority for you. Once you’ve determined your rhythms and needs, put getting the sleep you need on your list. Protect it! You’ll be sharper, feel better, and look better.
5. Get Help
If you have checked off the list above and still have issues, talk to your physician about a sleep study or a sleep specialist. There may be other factors at play.
Author and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington has become a champion for the importance of sleep. After literally falling over from exhaustion in her office several years ago, she found health through better sleep habits. In a TED Talk in 2010 she said, “Sleep is a performance enhancer. It isn’t about being lazy or not engaged in life.”
Her recent book, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time” is about getting back in bed. Huffington, who is 66, says, “I want to rekindle our romance with sleep. It is a central part of our life and is the gateway to our dreams.”
Let’s get our Zzzzzz’s, Silvernesters!
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