In general, as we age, sleep patterns tend to change. Most people find it difficult to fall asleep and also feel that they wake up more frequently, and all this is related to the progress of the years.
As we get older, we have the feeling that we sleep less and that we are more awake, but this is really associated with the different phases of sleep, which Yosef Meystel, the founder of Aperion Care will present further in this article.
Something important to keep in mind is the strong relationship that various studies have found between alterations in mood and sleep problems.
The sleep stages
Meystel explains that throughout the night, we go through sleep cycles that last approximately 90 minutes. These cycles are divided into two parts: NON-REM sleep, which in turn is divided into four phases and REM sleep.
- Phase I of NON-REM sleep is a mere transition between being awake and being asleep.
- Phase II takes place approximately 10 minutes after the previous one. It is a moment in which the person is deeply asleep, however, if he is awakened, he may very well say that he was not.
- Phase III and IV are those of deep sleep, which started approximately 15 minutes after the previous ones; It is when the body recovers.
As Meystel further explains, about 45 minutes after we go to bed, the brain activity changes and begins the phase called REM sleep or Rapid Eye movements, in which the dreams appear, with a narrative structure and in which the events unfold as if it were a story. It is the phase in which we are dreaming.
In general, most of the deep sleep is concentrated in the first third of the night. From this moment, the dream is to a greater extent REM sleep.
It seems that the time has come to answer the question that we left open in the first part.
Why tend to get less sleep when we grow older?
According to the healthcare executive, Meystel, the reason is that with the advance of the years, the time we spend in deep sleep (phases III and IV) is less, which in many cases, is associated with biological problems such as the need to go to the bathroom, the pain associated with a chronic illness or anxiety problems.
With all these changes, the result is that in older people, sleep is not enough to restore the body from the wear and tear suffered during all the hours we have been awake, so the number of daytime naps is increased.
And let’s not think that it is necessary to reach very advanced ages to suffer these changes since they begin to appear between 35 and 50 years.
How does lack of sleep affect us?
Not sleeping the necessary time to restore us causes important consequences that diminish the quality of life of the person:
- At the cognitive level, problems of attention and concentration appear, response time is slower and day-to-day functioning is altered.
- On a psychological level, you can notice a worsening of the mood and, mainly, that the symptoms of anxiety increase.
- On a physical level, we will notice a loss of energy during the day.
How can we resolve the insomnia problem?
When we suffer from insomnia, the first thing you can do is to see your physician who will give you a medication to alleviate it. The founder of Aperion Care, Meystel points out that among the most commonly used drugs are hypnotics, quite safe but with the disadvantage that their effectiveness can be lost if we get used to it. Furthermore, we stop using them, they can cause the well-known abstinence syndrome.
Also, there are psychology treatments that help to combat sleep problems.
While they are slower and require more patience, they will not have side effects and their benefits will remain over time. These treatments are directed towards the change of maladaptive habits in relation to sleep, identifying and modifying habits and lifestyles that are incompatible with sleep (sleep hygiene), beliefs modification and inadequate thoughts about sleep through cognitive restructuring techniques and learning relaxation techniques.
Some recommendations to keep in mind:
Make sure that sleeping problems are not caused by another problem such as anxiety, chronic pain, etc.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine for 3 or 4 hours before bedtime. Also, do intense physical exercise or mental activity.
Do moderate exercise in the afternoon.
Do not eat protein or fat foods at night. Take a light dinner and do not go to bed hungry or thirsty.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning.
Establish regular pre-sleep routines to indicate that the time to go to bed is approaching.
Use the bed only to sleep, not for other things like reading or watching television.
If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do an activity in silence such as reading or listening to music.
Avoid naps longer than 20 minutes. If you suffer from insomnia, avoid sleeping during the day.
Try to have a dark room, without noise, well ventilated and with a temperature between 18 and 22 ºC.
If you still cannot sleep, Meystel recommends checking with your physician. For more information and suggestions, schedule an appointment with Meystel. Also, you can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.