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Tips to Keep Your Sleep Peaceful

Excerpt by Lauren Broch, MD, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Everybody knows that a good night's sleep is essential. However, sleep patterns change as we grow older, and the incidence of sleep disorders increases with age. For men, there are new clues that point to reasons why this might be true.

According to investigators from Pennsylvania State University, men appear to become more sensitive to the stimulating effects of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) as they age. This hormone plays a part in the body's response to stress, with higher levels of the hormone associated with arousal. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

But while the aging body's inclination is to burn the midnight oil, there is much that can be done to win in the fight against sleepless hours, for both women and men. Below, Dr. Lauren Broch and Dr. Rochelle Zak explain how to keep the night's sleep sweet.

The night is for sleeping
When you have had a poor night's sleep and feel awful the next morning, you might believe that spending more time in bed is the answer. Unfortunately, what generally happens when you spend extra time in bed is that your sleep becomes fragmented. Periods of sleep alternate with frequent awakening. These alternating periods of sleep and awakening will cause the unrefreshed feeling that you were trying to avoid by staying in bed longer.

The solution is to figure out how much sleep time you need, which might be different from how much sleep you want. You can do this by keeping track of the total number of hours spent sleeping in a twenty-four hour period for two weeks-including nap time-then calculating the average sleep you get in twenty-four hours. You should stay in bed only for the time you need to sleep plus thirty minutes, to allow for time to fall asleep, each night.

For example, if you need six hours of sleep, spend only six and a half hours in bed. The corollary is to avoid naps. If you like to nap during the day, just decrease your time in bed at night, since napping will take away from the time you will sleep at night.

Use your bed wisely
It sounds silly but our bodies pick up on a lot of subconscious cues. If you have trouble falling asleep, try avoiding non-sleep-related activities in bed. Therefore, do not pay bills, watch television or read in bed. Use the bed only for sleeping and sex.

Night-time is not the right time for caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
Alcohol relaxes you and can help you fall asleep, but when the alcohol wears off it has the opposite effect, causing awakening and fragmented sleep during the remainder of the night. Avoid the "nightcap" and do not drink alcohol within six hours of bedtime.

Cigarettes are relaxing but make you more alert-and therefore make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. If you must smoke, have your last cigarette at least three hours before going to bed.

Caffeine, as we all know, helps us wake up, so you should avoid it after 3:00 p.m.

Exercise is a recipe for success
Exercise is great at any age and when you exercise in the late afternoon, it increases the amount of deep sleep that you will experience at night. Exercise in the evening, however, can get your adrenaline pumping and keep you awake.

De-stressing before bed
Don't expect yourself to fall asleep immediately. Wind down in the evenings. Develop a relaxing routine such as reading in a chair before getting into bed.

There are many changes in sleep patterns that occur with aging, and a few disorders that become more common as we age. But there are also a number of strategies you can use in the fight against those fitful nights. Make sure your sleep habits are healthy. And sweet dreams!

Reference Source 104


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