SENIOR MOMENTS / Aging and Insomnia – Get Better Sleep Without a Pill

Volume 1, Number 1

By Dean Walters

Senior Moments is dedicated to the issues we all face as we progress through our years.

It’s been a long day, and you’re exhausted. It’s time for bed, and your head thankfully hits the pillow. Your eyes close, your legs stretch, but sleep eludes you. Or maybe you fall asleep immediately, but you wake up a few hours later, unable to fall back asleep. These problems afflict over half the 65 and older respondents in a survey sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

Sleep problems can cause greater health issues in older adults. Lack of sleep leads to drowsiness and irritability, impairs concentration, hinders memory and decreases physical performance and reaction time. It also limits the time our body has to nourish itself, repair faulty cells and establish new memory and learning processes. In addition, many older adults with insomnia also have one or more conditions such as heart disease, lung problems, joint issues, acid reflux, or arthritis which can be exacerbated by too little sleep; or sleep problems may be a side effect of the medications taken associated with these conditions.

So why not just take a pill? While it’s true that it may seem like a no-brainer to just pop a pill to help you sleep, most sleeping pills are not meant for use beyond four to eight weeks and there are serious risks for older adults. Sleeping medications can have unwanted side effects including increased risk of fractures from falling because of increased grogginess. There’s also an increased risk of unwanted interactions between sleeping pills and other prescribed medications that seniors may be taking.

The good news is that treatment for insomnia isn’t limited to medications. While they may not provide the instant fix that pills do, they are easy, safe and effective and more likely to provide long-lasting effects.

So set the stage during the day for better sleep at night.

  • Regular exercise (30-60 minutes three to four times per week), in addition to its many other health benefits, can also help you sleep better because exercise increases the amount of energy you expend during the day, the amount of endorphins your body produces and the balanced regulation of your body temperature, all of which can lead to more peaceful sleep.
  • Strive to achieve a healthier weight – lower body mass index along with the increased physical activity help minimize the number of times you awaken during the night, and also can improve sleep apnea.
  • Relaxation Techniques (information on each can be found online) such as:
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    • Autogenic Training
    • Visualization
    • Mindfulness Medication

With a bit of effort and consistent application, you’ll learn to develop whole new way of looking at sleep and how to take a healthy approach to bedtime. Nighttime will be something to look forward to again.

Dean Walters is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and a Certified Personal Trainer with specialties in Senior Fitness and Fitness Nutrition; and the owner of Well-Tech International.

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