The importance of adequate sleep has become a national mantra. Even though our personal practices about sleep may suggest otherwise, few of us would disagree with the basic presumptions. Recent research has focused on sleep in our later years. This and the following entry may help you assess your place in the sleep-spectrum—the amount and quality of your sleep patterns.
First, some perhaps-startling information:
• Getting to sleep is a major challenge for over half the cohort of persons aged 65 and older.
• Consistent lack of sleep in middle-age may result in major health problems in our later years.
• Older adults need the same amount of sleep as younger folks.
• “Sleep aids” carry special risks for older adults.
• It’s difficult to make up for regularly lost sleep, to recover mental and physical well-being.
• By the time we reach our seventh decade of life, we will have lost as much as 90% of our youthful deep-sleep capabilities.
Among the possible sleep-related problems that can arise in our later years are: sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, chronic insomnia, functional decline, diminished emotional regulation, depression, cancer and even Alzheimer’s dementia. Micro-sleep, lowered sex drive, anxiety, addiction, suicidal thoughts and depression are complications that can happen at any age. Later in life, we don’t adjust as quickly to sleep disorders—including diminished and disturbed sleep—so their effects persist and accumulate.
Those who believe that they are among those rare individuals who can get by on less than seven or eight hours each night are perhaps overlooking the gathering troubles that will eventually appear as they continue to deprive their bodies and minds of necessary sleep.
In the next entry, I’ll suggest some hopeful ways in which we can change sleep habits that may contribute to our overall health, perhaps including our spiritual selves.
(The ideas in these sleep-focused blog entries arise from Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Professor Matthew Walker, Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley, and the reporting of Barbara Sadick, “Having trouble sleeping? It is not just because of aging.” in the November 26, 2017 issue of The Washington Post.)