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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Catching Your ZZZ’s

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 80% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 84 report having sleep problems. So the question is, what can all these people do in order to get their sleep?

The foundation offers some ideas to consider:
  • Avoid stimulants, such as coffee, tea, or chocolate—anything with caffeine in it—at least 3 or 4 hours before you go to bed.
  • Exercise in the morning or afternoon, but not in the evening.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Use the bed for sleeping and/or sexual activity.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol later in the evening; it can increase awakenings later in the night.
  • Try taking short naps, but keep in mind that sleeping in the daytime will affect your sleep at night. You may find that a 30-minute nap can decrease your nighttime sleep, or you may sleep for a shorter time.

There are also a number of behavioral modifications that seniors can make to establish healthy sleeping patterns. These include relaxation training which often involves reducing tension and muscular relaxation techniques. The foundation recommends that you not spend too much time lying awake in bed. If you are not able to fall asleep after 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet, relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to soft music. Then when you do feel sleepy, get back into bed and try to fall asleep again. Give it another 20 minutes; if it doesn’t work, repeat the process.

And, of course, always check with your doctor.

This blog is posted by Laraine Jablon.

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social and health concerns of seniors. She lives in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.