Sleep for seniors: Insomnia isn't inevitable - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Sleep for seniors: Insomnia isn't inevitable

Having difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep (insomnia) is common as you get older. But that doesn't mean insomnia can't be avoided. Explore what could be causing your sleeping difficulties. Once you've figured out what's causing your insomnia, there's plenty you can do to get a good night's rest.

As you age, your body secretes smaller amounts of key substances that help your body decide when to sleep and when to wake up. Levels of growth hormone, which promotes deep sleep, and melatonin, which regulates your sleeping and waking cycle, decrease as you age. As a result, your circadian rhythm - the internal clock that tells you to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning - changes. You might find yourself going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.

However, you still need the same amount of sleep as you did when younger, about seven to eight hours a night. Some health conditions, and the medications you're taking, may contribute to sleeplessness.

Lifestyle changes: As your responsibilities and daily activities change, your body adjusts accordingly. You might not get as much exercise as you did in the past. Being in a more rested state during the day means that your body doesn't feel the need to sleep like it used to. If your doctor says it's OK, increase your daily activities, for example, by taking a walk or spending more time in the garden.

Do your exercising during the day, or at least more than two hours before you go to bed. Exercise increases your core temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.

You might not spend enough time outdoors these days. Sunlight helps keep your body's circadian rhythm working appropriately. In general, you need about two hours of bright-light exposure each day to help your body gauge when to sleep and when to wake up. If you can't get outside to enjoy the sunshine, talk to your doctor about a light box - a box that emits a bright light that mimics the light given by the sun.

With more indoor time and less activity, you might find it tempting to nap during the day. If you nap for more than 20 minutes, you could find yourself having more trouble getting to sleep at night.
Cut down on caffeine and alcohol to encourage more restful sleep.

Excerpted from MayoClinic.com. For full article, click on: www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/HA00056
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