Confessions of Sheep Counters

Lately, I’ve been talking with friends who are experiencing sleep issues. All over 50, some retired, and others still employed.   Their issues are the same;  being unable to sleep, or not getting enough. Not surprisingly, a 2015 survey conducted by AARP on brain health topics found that the number one concern that adults 50 and older had was sleep.

Since retirement I’m not sure exactly how my sleep pattern has changed. Transitioning from a set bedtime to none took a while to get used to. Since, most days I didn’t have any particular place I could stay up all night.  The first several weeks of my retirement, I was so excited that I found myself watching TV, reading or on Social Media all night. Sometimes I was up as late as 1-2 A.M., and would still awake at my regular working time of 6:30 A.M.   After a few months, I noticed that I was sleeping later, waking up at 9 A.M, most likely a result of staying up until 2 or 3 A.M.  Currently, and with conscious effort , my pattern has improved to at least six hours of sleep.

One retired friend said that she’s retires to bed by 9-10 P.M., but her sleep is interrupted several times during the night. Consequently, she’s tired during the day, but says that she’s rarely able to take a nap.  Not good, according to a sleep consultant who states “Quantity and quality of sleep is one of the best predictors of energy”. He also goes on to say “many people don’t get enough sleep to revitalize them.” The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends 7-9 hours for Adults 26-64; 65 and over is 7-8 hours.

According to the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) it is normal for sleep to change with age. It’s not unusual to experience changes in the quality, quantity, as well as the structure and duration of sleep patterns.

Another friend said that he didn’t experience changes in the length of time it took him to fall asleep, however he woke up several times during the night and early morning.   The GCBH study reports that as we age, sleep is more easily interrupted and deep sleep decreases. Which means more effort must be excreted to sustain good sleep and lifestyle habits to maintain restorative benefits of sleep.  Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is recommended for most adults to maintain good physical and cognitive health.

Older people tend to get sleepier earlier in the evening,  Because the body’s internal clock changes and prompts changes in the timing of sleep. and staying up late becomes more difficult.  If a person falls asleep at 8 or 9 PM and awakens at 4-5 AM, they are still getting the minimum suggested sleep. This doesn’t mean that their sleep quality is worse. It just means that the timing or pattern of sleep has shifted and waking up earlier in the morning becomes more common.

According to GCBH there are some basic steps a person can take to help promote good brain health.

*Getting up at the same time each day helps maintain a regular sleep cycle.

* Instituting an environment conducive to sleep, keeping regular bedtime routines

*Getting enough exercise and outdoor light exposure during the day can help people maintain good sleep patterns.

Of course these basic routines may not help if a person begins to experience significant insomnia. As another, younger friend experienced to the point that he enrolled in a Sleep Apnea Study to determine the cause for his sleepless nights. If instituting good sleep practices does not remedy the problem, it may be a good idea to see a sleep specialist who can recommend behavioral therapies, or medication that can be of assistance.

We all know that sleep is essential, and that good rest can be a predictor for good health. For most people, the most important practices to promote good brain health through adequate sleep is to maintain regular duration and timing of sleep.   So I say that in order to operate at optimal performance… let’s get some good ZZZ’s.

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2 Replies to “Confessions of Sheep Counters”

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