weekly blog--one for the ages
As I get older, the long-night of sleep I most cherished has given way to occasional bouts of insomnia and middle-of-the-night awakenings. I’m not alone in this phenomenon, and there are many proposed reasons why this happens, running the gamut from psychological distress to medications to the changing physiology of the body.
One study suggests there is a specific cluster of neurons associated with regulating sleep patterns, called the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, which may slowly die off as you get older. Another researcher suggests that historically, our distant ancestors had two bouts of sleep per night with a wakeful period in between.
So, if interruptions in sleep are to be expected, what's the best strategy for getting enough of it after you shoo away the birds that start chirping outside your bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning?
You will find many remedies, but probably the most important is to get a good handle on the number of hours of sleep you need, set a pattern and stick with it. Most people require seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
For those who get less, studies show they are more susceptible to the common cold, skin aging (wrinkles) and weight gain. They are also more likely to be have depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls, use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, and have an overall poorer quality of life. Add to the mix, recent studies suggest that the chemicals used in some sleeping aids can make you more prone to dementia.