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5 Myths about Seniors and Sleep

By December 22, 2015Aging in Place

One of the few constants in life, along with aging, is the need for sleep. As people get older, it can be challenging to understand sleep patterns; what is healthy, what is normal, what changes should be expected? It seems that many myths swirl around the issue of sleep for seniors. Here are five common misconceptions regarding seniors and sleep.

A nightly routine doesn’t change just because of age.
The routine may not change drastically with age but actually attaining a sound sleep may get tougher. Seniors sleep more lightly and are apt to be woken more easily. Medication, depression, sickness, and the sleep environment can disrupt a deep sleep. Seniors can improve their sleep environment by ensuring the mattress isn’t too old and there isn’t too much light in the room. Seniors should consider ending TV time one-half hour before bedtime and should stop watching TV and using electronic devices while in bed.

Seniors should avoid drinking alcohol in the evening.

Experts tend to be a bit divided when it comes to alcohol consumption. Mainstream science overwhelmingly advises against consuming alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime because it can lead to a fitful, restless sleep. On the other hand, Dr. Timothy Monk of the University of Pittsburgh has suggested that a glass of Merlot at bedtime could help one to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.

It’s possible to catch-up on sleep.
Actually, it is not. Many believe that after losing a few hours of sleep one night, they can make it up by simply going to bed earlier the next night. This can wreak havoc on the sleep cycle. Everyone has unique sleep needs and a unique circadian sleep rhythm. Catching up on sleep is also made difficult by the “second wind,” or period of heightened wakefulness that many experience before bedtime.

Waking in the middle of the night is a bad thing.
Believe it or not, waking intermittently throughout the night isn’t so bad. Since the invention of artificial light sources, human beings have rewired their internal clocks. The average sleep patterns that we know today are actually relatively recent occurrences. It used to be rather common for people to wake up in the middle of the night, for an hour or more, and then return to bed until morning. The bottom line is, don’t worry! Waking up in the middle of the night isn’t detrimental to the sleep cycle.

Eight hours of sleep is necessary.
This is, in fact, the biggest fallacy of all. As mentioned earlier, each person’s sleep needs are unique. Some can operate well on six hours and others need eight hours. However, the average for most people is somewhere between seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night. If a senior finds themselves nodding off during the evening news or falling asleep in the late evening, they may need to pay more attention to their sleep requirements.

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