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Sleep needs remain the same as we age

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Everyone knows that children need sleep.

But, so do adults!

Sometimes sleep can be fleeting as we age.

However, those sleepless hours may be a sign of health problems.

According to Dr. Andrew Crocker, Texas AgriLife Extension Service gerontology health specialist, it is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age.

The mind and body work very hard and your body needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Insomnia occurs more frequently among older adults.

Insomnia may complicate other conditions or make a person too tired to function normally during waking hours.

Insomnia can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and increased risk for accidents and illness.

If you experience insomnia a few times a week or more, speak to your health provider about it and about any effects the insomnia may have on your body.

Sleep occurs in multiple stages and older people tend to spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in deep sleep.

Snoring, a condition that gets worse with age is the primary cause of sleep disruption for many adults.

Snoring is most commonly associated with persons who are overweight.

Loud snoring is particularly serious, as it can be a symptom of sleep apnea, according to Crocker.

Untreated sleep apnea could lead to cardiovascular disease, headaches, memory loss and depression.

If you experience snoring on a regular basis and it can be heard from another room, or you have been told you stop breathing during your sleep, these are signs that you might have sleep apnea and it should be discussed with your health provider.

Some conditions related to sleep problems include:

-Hypertension is associated with snoring and sleep apnea.

-Hot flashes, changes in breathing and decreasing hormonal levels may lead to trouble sleeping.

-Many cancer patients experience sleep problems.

-Acid reflux may cause difficulty falling and staying asleep.

-Depression is most closely associated with insomnia and is a risk factor for having difficulty sleeping.

-The pain and discomfort of arthritis may make it difficult to sleep through the night.

Crocker states that in addition to these conditions, the medications used to treat these and other medical conditions may adversely affect one’s ability to sleep.

If you experience sleep problems, think about whether your difficulty sleeping may be caused by an event or particular stress. If so, the problem may resolve in time and you need not seek treatment. Suggestions to try to improve sleep are:

-Use the bed and bedroom for sleep only.

Take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.

-Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends.

-Create a good sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.

-Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.

-Finish eating at least two to three hours before bedtime.

-Exercise regularly, completing any workout at least two hours before bedtime.

-Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine close to bedtime.

Persistent sleep problems may be a sign of a larger issue that could cause adverse health effects.

For further information, contact Rita M. Hodges, County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, 701 South I-35 E, Waxahachie or call 972-825-5175 or e-mail: rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.

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