Health & Environment

Information and Tips for Better Sleeping Habits

by Mary Wright, health educator at North End Community Health Center

Why we need sleep:
•    We need 7-8 hours sleep per night
•    The body and brain needs rest
•    Sleep prepares body for the next day
•    The brain needs this time to sort and store information, replace chemicals, and solve problems

As people age their sleep patterns may change, but you still have the same requirement for sleep as younger people. Older people tend to nap more, get sleepier early in the evening, and wake up earlier in the morning. These habits can make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Also, older adults may wake up more often to use the bathroom. They may also have heartburn, arthritis, menopause, or illnesses such as cancer that may cause pain or discomfort. Lung disease and heart failure make it harder to sleep.  Stress can also be a factor.

Signs of Insomnia:
•    Waking up tired
•    Waking up many times during the night
•    Waking up early and being unable to get back to sleep
•    Taking a long time…longer that 30-45 minutes…to fall asleep

Lack of sleep can cause:
•    Depressed mood
•    Attention and memory problems
•    Excessive daytime sleepiness
•    More nighttime falls
•    Increased use of over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids
•    Low energy
•    Problems thinking and doing things
•    Delayed response time
•    Car accidents

After two days without sleep, people are often unable to do their normal tasks. After five days without sleep, people may experience hallucinations.

Tips for a good night sleep:

•    Establish a ritual for bedtime, like brushing your teeth and then washing your face
•    Set a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
•    Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
•    Avoid eating or drinking alcohol or caffeine right before going to bed.
•    Exercise:  Get 20-30 min/day; try to get the exercise in at least 5-6 hours before bedtime