Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At any age, lack of sleep can drag you down

Yes, your mother was right. We all need eight hours of sleep each night, no matter how old we are.

The numbers from such organizations as the National Sleep Foundation suggest that roughly 45 percent of Americans have experienced poor or insufficient sleep that affects their daily routines, including those of us 50 and older.

"Not receiving the proper amount of sleep can be detrimental to your health and affect those around you," noted Dr. Scott Powell, 42, a board-certified ENT with Florida E.N.T. & Allergy in Tampa.

"When sleep loss becomes severe, your perception and judgment reach an altered state, much like that of a person drinking alcohol," Powell said.

A shift in sleep patterns is natural as people get older, Powell said. "Their body wants them to go to bed a little bit earlier."

A number of factors can alter our sleeping patterns as we age, including illness, medications for an illness, mental distractions, anxieties and even family sleep patterns.

The important thing to know, Powell emphasized, is that "it's a misnomer that as you get older you don't need as much sleep. It's just that you don't get as much sleep."

Often, the symptoms of not getting enough sleep are subtle. There can be mild "memory distortions," such as not remembering exactly when something happened or forgetting someone's name. Frequently, a spouse's feedback will be the first sign.

"Each day that you are racking (less sleep) up, the effect is more and more cumulative," Powell said — including getting even less sleep. People "think they can handle (less sleep), but they don't realize what they are doing to their body. They're in denial."

Persistent loss of sleep can lead to a number of potential physical and mental conditions, from diabetes to depression. Other effects can be greater difficulty losing weight, reduced sexual drive and sagging skin that makes a person look even older, he said. "They're accelerating the aging process ... and making it worse (and) quicker."

Tips to avoid sleep problems are "easy and obvious," Powell said. He offered the following:

• Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol at least four to five hours before going to bed.

• Make the bedroom "a sleeping space — cool, dark, peaceful, quiet."

• Sleep when you're tired.

• Face the bedroom clock away from you to avoid additional anxiety.

• Don't eat late at night. Avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates, "which can ramp up your metabolism."

• Exercise early in the day.

• Maintain your sleep schedule on the weekends. Try to avoid "sleeping in. Your body will lose that (sleep) rhythm."

• Turn off the bedroom TV. Write in a journal or read a book to calm the mind.

• Turn off smartphones, tablets and computers in the bedroom. "Electronics are completely ruining what the brain is trying to do when going to sleep. Anxiety over missing something on the internet keeps the brain wired, wired, wired," Powell said.

There's actually a proposed term for fear of missing a call or email — "nomophobia," Powell said.

With or without electronics, sleep can be a challenge as we get older, noted Dr. Michael Jaffee, associate professor of neurology at the University of Florida.

"Sleep requirements do not go down as we age," said Jaffee, 50, "but we do have more sleep disturbances. Some people want to attribute that to aging itself. More often, it's medical problems like menopause in women or not being able to control the bladder or pain conditions or neurological conditions like depression."

But the body wants to sleep. The brain naturally produces melatonin, a chemical that promotes sleep. "As we get older, less of it is secreted," Jaffee said, "and sometimes that results in wanting to go to bed earlier or wake up earlier."

Recent studies have found even more motivation for a consistent good night's sleep.

The brain naturally eliminates a protein known as amyloid while we sleep. With less sleep, fewer amyloids are eliminated, Jaffee explained. A buildup of amyloids is seen as a marker for the process of Alzheimer's, he said.

A good night's sleep can be as simple as wearing socks to bed, Jaffee said, because cold feet can wake you up.

Prescription medicines can sometimes have side effects that prohibit a restful sleep, Jaffee said. He suggests that patients always be proactive and ask their physician about side effects, including sleep disturbances. "Everyone responds to medications a little bit differently," he said.

And we can't really catch up on missed sleep on the weekend, he said. "Makeup sleep is not the same as restful sleep."

Just like Mom said all along.

Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at travelword@aol.com.

At any age, lack of sleep can drag you down 05/22/17 [Last modified: Monday, May 22, 2017 4:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cooking challenge: Making homemade edible Christmas gifts

    Cooking

    Should I infuse this vodka with bacon?

    That's not a question I expected to ask myself on a Sunday morning, but here we are. This Christmas, I'm giving homemade gifts: infused liquor and chocolate fudge. But I didn't realize it would be so hard to find an appetizing recipe for infused alcohol.

  2. Tyre McCants, USF's brawny bruiser of a receiver

    College

    TAMPA — Having spent 11 games watching Tyre McCants in the flesh — all 236 pounds of it — USF coach Charlie Strong seems convinced his team's leading receiver down the stretch could be someone's leading rusher down the road.

  3. To test for climate disasters, like hurricanes: build stuff, then blow it apart

    Hurricanes

    WEST GLOCESTER, R.I. — In the backwoods of Rhode Island, a team of researchers spends whole days trying to destroy things: setting boxes on fire, shattering chunks of ice, hurling debris through the air at hurricane speed.

  4. From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes

    Cooking

    Sometimes, you just want a hot, crispy potato.

  5. Kathy Fountain, from anchor chair to therapist's chair

    Business

    A knowledgeable voice and familiar face beamed into Tampa Bay homes when Kathy Fountain delivered the 5 o'clock news and chatted with talk show guests on WTVT-Ch. 13. She created some news of her own as co-anchor of the first female team in the Tampa Bay area, "so radical at the time," she says.