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. Florida Insiders: We'll find out soon whether Adam Putnam has a glass jaw

    Blogs

    This month's Florida Insider Poll questions: Who would be the strongest Democratic/Republican nominee for governor? Whom do you expect will win the Democratic/Republican gubernatorial nomination? Which party …

    Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like
  2. Before Janessa Shannon's death, parents traded accusations of abuse

    Crime

    TAMPA — Long before Janessa Shannon's remains were discovered in a Hillsborough County nature preserve, her parents tried to convince court officials that she was in danger.

    From her own family.

    Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead July 12 in the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Hillsborough County. [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]
  3. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams

    Bucs

    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  4. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.