Posts tagged: insomnia

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.

We are a Sleep-Deprived Nation

We sleep 18-22 hours

We sleep for 18-22 hours a day

Do you often complain that you need more sleep? A 2002 sleep survey done by the National Sleep Foundation showed that almost 74% of Americans do not get enough sleep at night. Before Edison invented the light bulb, people slept for about 10 hours, on average.  That number is now 6 hours!

Without adequate periods of rest for physical and mental repair, you may not be able to function at your peak. Here are some of the short-term consequences of not getting enough sleep:

  • Decreased daytime alertness 
  • Impaired memory and cognitive ability, the ability to think and process information
  • More than double the risk of sustaining an occupational injury
  • Impaired immune system
  • Stressed relationships & poor quality of life

Over the long term you may be faced with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Weight Gain
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Mental impairment
  • Increased mortality risk
  • Relationship problems
  • Diabetes

The amount of sleep you need depends on many factors, including physical activity, emotional issues, diet and of course, age. Infants need 16 hours a day; teenagers – 9 hours on average; most adults – 7 to 8 hours and women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.

Our internal body clock governs our daily or circadian rhythm – telling us when to wake up and when to feel sleepy.  In future posts I will give you some solutions for insomnia but right now you might want to visit an interesting site that allows you to do a very short test, the results of which produce a chart showing your natural sleeping and waking pattern over a 24-hour period. If you’re finding it difficult to get enough sleep, it could be that your natural body clock is at odds with your routine.

Check it out at –

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