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Sleep Matters for Better Health

UCLA Health
Dr. Alia Tuqan

Daylight Saving Time begins March 11 to make the most of sunlight during the warm summer months. However, springing forward one hour can disrupt our sleep patterns.

As we grow older, we may notice that our sleep schedule is not what it was. What changes are considered a normal part of aging and which are not? Here is some helpful information about getting a better night’s sleep.

While adults on average need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, older and younger adults’ quality of sleep differs. Older adults experience more light sleep, less deep sleep and more awakenings.

Sleep is vital for good health. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive problems and difficulty in daily functioning.

There are many types of sleep disorders. Insomnia, the most common one, is difficulty falling or staying asleep. Circadian-rhythm (also known as sleep-wake cycle) sleep disorders involve going to bed or waking up too early or too late. Hypersomnia is sleeping too much.

If you have sleep problems, tell your doctor. He or she may conduct tests to determine the cause. For example, sleep apnea causes poor sleep and daytime tiredness. Sometimes anxiety can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep, while depression can lead to waking up too early.

Depending on the cause, there are steps you can take. Your doctor may recommend behavioral changes and/or medications.

Sleep difficulties are not a normal part of aging! Here are some suggestions for getting more restful sleep:

  • Maintain a regular schedule. Establish consistent sleep and wake times.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet for sleeping.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleep. Don’t watch TV, use a laptop/tablet or eat meals in bed.
  • Talk with your doctor about adjusting the times you take any stimulating medications.
  • Exercise regularly but not right before going to bed. Daily exercise can help your body, mind and sleep. Consider taking walks in your neighborhood or visiting your local gym.
  • Be careful about napping. If you must nap, limit it to less than one hour and earlier in the day.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can stay in the body for several hours, disrupting sleep at night.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption, too. While it can make you feel sleepy initially, it interferes with deeper sleep.
  • Eat your last big meal of the day and limit drinking liquids a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid going to bed upset. Try to take care of your problems during the day and let go of what remains at night.

Follow these simple steps for a good night’s sleep and a healthier life!

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