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U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

LEADING THE FEDERAL EFFORT ON AGING RESEARCH

A Good Night's Sleep
Since he retired, Edward dreads going to bed at night. He’s afraid that when he turns off his light he will just lie there with his eyes open and his mind racing. “How can I break this cycle?” he asks. “I’m so tired—I need to get some sleep.”
Just like Edward, you want a good night’s rest.Getting enough sleep helps you stay healthy and alert. But many older people don’t sleep well. If you’re always sleepy, it may be time to see a doctor. You shouldn’t wake up every day feeling tired.
Sleep and Aging
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as young adults—between 7-9 hours each night. But older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did whenthey were younger. And they may nap more during the day. If you sleep too much during the day, it may be hard to fall asleep at night. Also, feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day you may be:
* irritable,
* forgetful,
* depressed,
* Likely to have more falls or accidents.
There are two kinds of sleep—REM (rapideye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. We dream mostly during REM sleep, and have the deepest sleep during non-REM sleep. As people get older, they spend less time in deep sleep, which may be why older people are often light sleepers.
Insomnia
Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with insomnia have trouble falling and staying asleep. Insomnia can lastfor days, months or even years. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may:
* take a long time to fall asleep,
* wake up many times in the night,
* wake up early and be unable to get back to sleep,
* wake up tired.
There are many causes of insomnia. Some of them you can control, but others you can’t. Insomnia may be a sign of other problems. If you are excited about a newactivity or worrying over your bills, you may have trouble sleeping.
Sometimes insomnia is a side effect of a medication or an illness. Often, being unable to sleep becomes a habit. Some people worry about not sleeping even before they get into bed. Worrying doesn’t help and it may make insomnia worse.
Older adults who have trouble sleeping may have memory problems, be depressed, have more nighttimefalls, use more over-the-counter sleep aids, or feel very sleepy during the day. Using prescription medicines for a short time may help. But remember, these medicines aren’t a cure for insomnia. You need to develop habits that will help you get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is another serious sleeping disorder. A person with sleep apnea pauses in his or her breathing whilesleeping. These pauses may happen many times during the night. Waking up over and over each night makes you feel very tired the next day.
You may not even know you have sleep apnea. But your loud snoring and gasping for air can keep other people awake. Feeling sleepy during the day and being told you are snoring loudly at night are signs that you may have sleep apnea.
If you think you have sleepapnea, see a doctor who knows about sleep problems. Treatment may include learning to sleep in a way that keeps your airways open. Sometimes a medical device called Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP), a dental device, or surgery can help. If not treated, sleep apnea can lead to other problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, or memory loss.
Movement Disorders
Restless legs syndrome andperiodic limb movement disorder are common in older adults. Some people have both problems. These movement disorders can rob you of needed sleep. People with restless legs syndrome, RLS, feel tingling, crawling, or pins and needles in one or both legs. It’s worse at night. Moving the legs brings some relief, at least for a short time. RLS tends to run in families. See your doctor for more...
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