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How Much Sleep Do We Need?

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We all want a good night's sleep. Sleep allows our body to rest and to restore its energy levels. Without enough restful sleep, not only can we become grumpy and irritable, but also inattentive and more prone to accidents. Like food and water, adequate sleep is essential to good health and quality of life.

Sleep needs change over a person's lifetime. Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults. Interestingly, older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults -- seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Here are some frequently asked questions about sleep and aging:

Q. Do older adults need as much sleep as younger people?A. Sleep needs change over a person's lifetime. Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults. Interestingly, older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults -- seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Q. What are the consequences of poor sleep for older adults? A. Older adults who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have attention and memory problems, a depressed mood, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life.

Q. I have trouble falling asleep at night. Is that just a normal part of aging?A. Many people believe that poor sleep is a normal part of aging, but it is not. In fact, many healthy older adults report few or no sleep problems. Sleep patterns change as we age, but disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day are not part of normal aging.

Q. What is the most common reason older adults wake up at night?A. The most common reason older adults wake up at night is to go to the bathroom.  Prostate enlargement in men and continence problems in women are often the cause. Unfortunately, waking up to go to the bathroom at night also places older adults at greater risk for falling.

Q. As I get older, why do I tend to become tired earlier in the evening?A. As people age, their sleeping and waking patterns tend to change. Older adults usually     become sleepier earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. If they don't adjust their bedtimes to these changes, they may have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Q. As I get older, why do I tend to become tired earlier in the evening? A. As people age, their sleeping and waking patterns tend to change. Older adults usually become sleepier earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. If they don't adjust their bedtimes to these changes, they may have difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Q. Do older adults get enough sleep?A. Unfortunately, many older adults often get less sleep then they need. One reason is that they often have more trouble falling asleep. A study of adults over 65 found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

Q. How many types of sleep are there?A. There are two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement -- or NREM sleep -- and rapid eye movement -- or REM sleep. NREM sleep has four stages ranging from light to deep sleep. Then we go into REM sleep, the most active stage of sleep when dreaming often occurs. During REM sleep, the eyes move back and forth beneath the eyelids and muscles become immobile. We cycle through these stages of NREM-REM sleep approximately every 90 minutes.

Q. What are the most common sleep disorders among older adults? A. The most common sleep disorders among older adults are insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea, as well as movement disorders like restless legs syndrome.

Q. What are some suggestions for getting a good night's sleep? A. A good night's sleep can make a big difference in how you feel. Here are some suggestions to help you.

 Follow a regular schedule -- go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.Try not to nap too much during the day -- you might be less sleepy at night. Try to exercise at regular times each day. If possible, finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime. Try to get some natural light in the afternoon each day.

(Source: National Institute of Health)

Mature Lifestyles is Middle Tennessee's Newest Monthly Publication dedicated to living fully after 50! The publication serves Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson, Williamson and Dekalb Counties. Mature Lifestyles features articles on Senior Healthcare, Area Senior Events, Mature Real Estate News, Travel, Gardening, Food and entertainment with many of your favorite columns such as Boomer Beat, Veteran's Corner and our newest column - Assisted Loving. With Mature Lifestyles there is no time to rest! With a large distribution in five counties in Middle Tennessee and an active website we are dedicated to ensuring an active and exciting lifestyle after 50!

Norma Bixler is Mature Lifestyles Editor in Chief and Maturle Lifestyles is published by Main Street Medial, LLC. 

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