As an old Irish proverb says, “a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book”. Sleep at times is the best medicine and sleep is essential for staying healthy.
Older adults need about 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but for many reasons they may often be sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation may be caused by day time napping, anxiety, sleep apnea, or movement disorders such as restless leg syndrome, medications, or dementia.
Risks of sleep deprivation include: a decreased ability to fight infection, heart disease (48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease), high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, an increase incidence of accidents, impairment of attention, judgment, and problem solving. Lack of sleep contributes to depression, aging of the skin, anxiety, and weight gain. Sleep maybe the fountain of youth but unlike that elusive natural wonder, sleep can be found and embraced.
There are many ways to get better nights sleep. Most important is to minimize sleep during the day. A short daytime nap may be beneficial but multiple naps or extended daytime sleeping affects the quality and quantity of the primary sleep period. Developing habits around bedtime, the waking hour, regular exercise, and a relaxing bedtime routine, help to maximize sleep. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and large quantities of liquids and food should also be avoided close
Safe sleep is just as important and good sleep. When getting up in the middle of the night from a sound sleep, disorientation, low blood pressure or generalized weakness may develop. Stay safe at night by keeping a phone with emergency phone numbers close to the bed, having a nightlight in the bathroom, removing area rugs and getting up slowly to make sure strength and balance are present before walking. Falls are the leading cause of injury related visits to the emergency room, most of them happening at night.