Youve heard that expression, Ill sleep when Im dead. Well, it turns out that getting enough sleep, and other kinds of rest, just might postpone when your death occurs as well as increase the effectiveness and joyfulness of your life.
Consider this: the Nurses Health Study conducted by Harvard University
found that getting too little sleep is linked to a greater risk of getting breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation causes drowsy driving which can lead to accident fatalities. As reported by the the National Sleep Foundation
at their website devoted to drowsy driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries are caused annually because of falling asleep at the wheel.
In another study
, a review of information about 28,000 children and 15,000 adults found that too little sleep doubled the chances of being obese. Obesity has, in turn, been linked to a variety of life-threatening illnesses including sleep apnea, a condition in which we stop breathing during sleep. As pointed out in Sleep Apnea Tied to Increased Risk of Stroke,
especially for men over the age of 40, having sleep apnea more than doubles their potential for a stoke.
Preventing an early death or decreasing the likelihood you will become obese arent the only reasons we need to get enough sleep and rest. We also need it so we can be alert at work, making it less likely that well make mistakes, have accidents, or fall asleep during meetings, which could embarrass you or, worse, get you fired. Also, too little sleep can increase someones tendency to fly off the handle or to be overly emotional, reduce memory retention and increase depression. Simply put, too little sleep reduces the overall quality of our lives.
How much sleep do Boomers really need?
You may have grown up being told that eight is the magic number for the hours of sleep you need each night. It turns out there is no absolute number of hours. Everyone requires more or less sleep depending on a variety of factors including your individual makeup as well as your lifestyle. What counts is that you are getting enough sleep for your body and mind to be replenished, whether that is six, seven, or eight hours or more.
How do you determine how much sleep is enough for you? Start with a weekend or a day when you sleep in and dont set an alarm. That will give you a more natural time for sleeping so you wake up refreshed. Then try to duplicate that number of hours every day.
We Boomers also need to know that as we age, our biological clock resets. Sleep expert and physician Matthew Edlund, M.D. says that from the ages of 20 to 70, there is a 90-minute move forward in the typical biological clock. Dr. Edlund, author of The Power of Rest (HarperCollins) and The Body Clock Advantage (Circadian Press), points out that as we age, we go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. He calls it s a genetic biological clock phenomenon.
Sleep apnea on the rise
If youre a Boomer still looking for a reason to lose weight, heres a two word reason: sleep apnea. Overweight Boomers have a significantly higher likelihood of developing this condition that causes you to stop breathing while asleep. In fact, one of the first recommendations for treating someone with sleep apnea, especially if someone is obese, is to lose weight. Kathleen Myer, a registered respiratory therapist and sleep technician at HealthBridge in Manhasset, Long Island, New York, sees a lot of obstructive sleep apnea with Boomers, and that it is definitely life threatening.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, an associate professor at Boston Universitys School of Medicine, as reported by the National Sleep Foundation, found that men between the ages of 40 and 70 were 68% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who did not have obstructive sleep apnea as a predicting risk factor.
Unfortunately, only 10% of sleep apnea cases are even diagnosed. If it is diagnosed, the primary treatment is a nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.
Denver-based 50-year-old Barbara says shes had sleep apnea most of her life. I can remember my sister waking me up in the middle of the night when I was in my early teens because I was snoring loudly enough to wake her, she said. My first husband claimed I would shake the walls down. Finally, someone who shared a room with me suggested a sleep study. From that sleep study, Barbara learned that she was waking up 152 times an hour. I was so tired during the day that I would fall asleep at work or in the car when I stopped at a light.
A CPAP device has made all the difference in Barbaras life.
I wake up far more rested. I can stay awake during the day and work on the computer or watch TV two activities that I would fall asleep after a few minutes when I tried to do them before the CPAP. Now I sleep much more solidly, and actually have dreams and uninterrupted sleep. Using the CPAP for the past 11 years has extended my life. I have often suggested a sleep study to people who are tired all the time or talk about snoring. My life got much better when I could sleep! said Barbara.
If you or your bedroom partner have sleep apnea, it is important to comply with the doctors request to use a CPAP device. Myer points out, however, that this can be especially challenging for single men and women who are dating and prefer not to allow their romantic partner to see them using a CPAP device. To go without the CPAP machine for even one day, however, can have grave or even fatal consequences. Myer says there are CPAP devices called nasal pillows that have a strap and small cushions that just go into the nostril so that much less of the face is covered by that device.
There may also be an increase in insomnia with Boomers. One cause can be the frequent awakenings that are due to a male having to go to the bathroom during the night due to prostate enlargement or a female who suffers from incontinence. Fortunately, both conditions are treatable.
Anxiety is another cause of insomnia. These days more boomers are worrying about money, job loss, and foreclosure and thats causing us to toss and turn rather than get a good nights sleep. If this describes you or your bedmate, you need to work on solving those problems that are keeping you up at night. There are other reasons for insomnia and some of those factors are, fortunately, easier to correct than the financial, career, or real estate challenges. Here are 10 tips to help you to get a better night of sleep:
What to do
Here are 10 tips for a good nights sleep
1. Be as consistent as possible about how much sleep you get as well as about when you go to bed and when you wake up, including weekends.
2. Attend to the physical aspects of your sleep environment that you can change such as a comfortable bed, pillow, temperature that is not too hot or too cold, and minimal noise or interruptions.
3. If you take long or too many naps, that can interfere with your nighttime sleep so adjust accordingly.
4. If you have temporary insomnia due to stress or other transitional situations, including medications, pains, or illnesses that may be causing sleep problems, deal with the underlying causes of your insomnia.
5. If you find you have a chronic sleep-related issue, consider going to a sleep center staffed by trained sleep experts to have it properly diagnosed so you can be treated. (For a list of sleep centers, go to the American of sleep which maintains a free updated database.)
6. Watch your coffee or alcohol consumption immediately prior to sleep.
7. Exercising early enough in the day may help you to fall asleep at night but too close to your bedtime may act as a stimulus that keeps you up.
8. Some of the old-fashioned natural solutions for falling asleep include warm milk, taking a hot bath, or counting sheep. You might want to try one or all of those techniques before seeking out pharmaceutical help, such as sleeping pills, which need to be used with caution because of any possible side effects or the potential for becoming dependent whether over the counter or prescription. (See What about sleeping pills? below.)
9. Be careful about what TV programs, movies, or books you read at bedtime. Upsetting or riveting plots can keep you reading or watching long after you really wanted to go to sleep.
10. You might find writing a to do list of what you need to accomplish the next day will help you get to sleep since you wont be constantly mulling over in your mind all those things you need to do.
What about sleeping pills?
As pointed out in The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders," sleeping pills are medications that induce drowsiness and facilitate the onset and maintenance of sleep. Some of the more well-known hypnotics include Lunesta (eszopiclone), Sonata (zaleplon), and Ambien (zolpidem).
Consult with your physician about whether or not a hypnotic medication is the right treatment for your insomnia. Make sure you are fully aware of any potential side effects to any prescribed or even over-the-counter sleep aids including the possibility of developing a tolerance, dependence, or addiction to a specific sleeping pill. (See, for example, FDA Wants Stronger Warnings on Sleep Disorder Drugs.)
Rest is More than Sleep
Recently sleep experts have found that in terms of rejuvenating our mind and bodies, rest may be more important the sleep. In his book, The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough, Dr. Edlund says that sleep is only one form of rest and non-sleep rest is so much more than relaxing and watching TV. Other ways to feel replenished include: mental rest, which enables you to obtain calm and relaxed concentration quickly and effectively as you concentrate attention on something beyond your body social rest, which means you are using the power of social connectedness to relax and rejuvenate; spiritual rest, the practice of connecting with things larger and greater than ourselves; and last, but not least, physical rest, by focusing your body and its simplest physiological processes, provokes calm, relaxation, mental alertness, and surprisingly better health.
Here are some of the techniques that Dr. Edlund discusses in greater detail in his book:
• Focusing the eye
• Walking to music
• Ear popping (According to Dr. Edlund, you simply put both your index fingers in your ears deep enough to stop outside noise. Leave your fingers there for ten seconds if you have the time, five if you dont. If youre in a place where its socially acceptable, also close your eyes.
• Garden walks
• Social touch
• Social networking and social support
• Making a special connection
• Visiting a neighbor of coworker you dont know well
• Walking to lunch with a colleague, friend, or neighbor
• The power of prayer
• Following the ways of the Zen Buddhist teachings, Contemplating suchness, all the world where we live
• Simple observational meditation
• Deep breathing
• Yoga techniques including the mountain pose or the gravity pose
• Napping (a short nap, as quick as six minutes, can improve your concentration).
Dr. Edlund recommends a daily approach to life that is typified by the acronym: FAR using food, activity, and rest in a sequence that is repeated throughout the day. The above rest techniques will help you to be more rested during the day and able to sleep better at night.
The Importance of Dreams
Sleep and dream specialist Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., author of Healing Night and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, says, Good sleep can help us age very well. Naiman advocates not just looking at sleep as a necessary evil. Its not like flossing your teeth. Instead, says Naiman, We need to restore the sacred or spiritual side to sleep and to help increase dreaming.
Dreams are important because your dreams can help you deal with issues you cant face consciously. Sometimes, if youve been wrestling with a problem, the solution will come to you in a dream.
So start getting enough sleep and rest so youll feel rejuvenated, start dreaming more often, and making the next third of your life a long and healthy one.
Don't Overlook Health Benefits of Sleep...