Cat Naps Aren’t Enough as We Age

Feel like you need a cat nap most afternoons? If so, it is possible that you aren’t getting the sleep your body needs. You may have heard that as we age, we need less sleep. However, the National Institute on Aging reports that as we age, we continue to need seven to nine hours of sleep to function well.

Life Goes Better with a Good Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep can help us be our best in a number of ways. A good night’s sleep can “boost” our mood and support our metabolism. Quality sleep can support tissue repair and other restorative functions in our bodies. It can also allow our brain to “clear harmful toxins” that may have some association with dementia. And of course, we know from our lived experience that if we don’t get sufficient sleep, it is harder to concentrate and remember as much. According to a study from the American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology, getting quality sleep helps support our immune system as well as helping us recover from illnesses. And, the National Institute on Aging reports that not sleeping well can also contribute to increased falls as we get older. Beyond question, getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is essential for overall well-being.

Getting the Sleep We Need Can Be Challenging

Even though we may know that getting sufficient, restorative sleep is important, getting uninterrupted, deep sleep can be challenging. As we get older, our body aches and pains can wake us in the night. I injured a knee a few months ago and still have trouble with it periodically; the discomfort can wake me up at night. Some of us also allow our pets to sleep with us – probably not the best idea. Fortunately for me, my 110 Labrador Retriever is finally sleeping on the floor next to the bed (although his loud snoring can wake me up at times.)

Simple Actions We Can Take to Support Better Sleep

Other general suggestions for getting better sleep at night include avoiding working on tablets, computers, or other devices that emit blue light at least two hours before going to bed. Take advantage of the early morning light to help “stimulate the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.” Also, make sure you have a regular sleep time established. An article on WebMD stated that if we want to get better sleep, we might consider a place that is “dark, quiet, safe, comfortable, and cool—60 to 67 F is just about right.”

One surprising discovery about getting better sleep from a Chicago study was that optimists were over 70% more likely to get a good night’s sleep than were pessimists.  Optimists tend to look at challenges in a problem-solving way and are less likely to be affected by stress when needing to sleep. Optimists also embrace a positive outlook on life.  Any of us can practice being more optimistic by focusing on some of the positive things in our lives and recognizing that we likely have the experience and skills to handle just about anything that comes our way.

If you cannot get a handle on your sleep, it might be good to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Don’t lose any more sleep over the problem.


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