Sleepless in Boomer Land: What to Do?

When I was first asked to do some lectures on getting better sleep in order to be more productive, my first thought was “How many people are going to attend this?”  Did I get a surprise!  This turned out to be a popular topic, particularly for the more mature audiences.

If you’re a typical Baby Boomer, you may be finding that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get the amount of sleep that you need. This can be due to health issues, medications or as a normal part of aging. Not to mention the snoring of a spouse! 

As we age, the various sleep stages are affected. The deeper stages are reduced and replaced with more of the lighter stages of sleep.  In addition, sounds and interruptions are more likely to awaken us. Have you ever felt as if you could be awakened by a mouse tiptoeing through the room?  Another aspect is that sleep tends to be spread more across the 24-hour cycle rather than just at night.

What to do?

Here are some simple tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

Create a healthy sleep environment.
— Keep your bedroom for s** and sleeping.  Get rid of the piles of magazines and books, the treadmill, the TV and discussions about bills and other negative topics.
— Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. The optimum temperature is 60-65 degrees F.
— Consider keeping pets out of the bedroom. Did you know that 21% of dogs snore!
— Hide the clock and the night light. Even a small amount of light will affect your body’s production of the sleep hormone.
— Use blackout curtains or blinds. If you can see your hand when you hold it up in front of your face, it isn’t dark enough.

Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule. Try not to vary it by more than one hour.
Be light-wise. Avoid excess light before bedtime but expose yourself to bright light within 5 minutes of waking.
Avoid stimulants (coffee, nicotine, colas) late in the day.
Don’t drink alcohol before bed. It may help you fall asleep but will wake you up later on when it’s being metabolized by the body.
Don’t exercise or eat heavily before bed.
Don’t nap after 3:00pm. It may undermine your nighttime rest.
 
Numerous studies have been done around the topic of whether we actually need less sleep as we age. A recent UK study seems to indicate that this is in fact the case. So if you’re sleeping less than 8 hours a night, it may just be a natural consequence of aging.

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