A good night’s sleep is essential to the feeling of well-being. Most experts recommend seven or eight hours of sleep each night, regardless of age. If you can not sleep, you may have a sleep disorder that leads to problems falling or staying asleep.
There are different types of sleep problems which include: Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. These are very common, not only to seniors but to those of every age group.
Sleep apnea is defined as a “sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. Each pause can last for a few seconds to several minutes and they may happen many times a night. In the most common form, this follows loud snoring. There may be a choking or snorting sound as breathing resumes. As it disrupts normal rest and you cannot sleep, those affected are often irritable and tired during the day”
Sleep apnea can be a serious health risk. It has been around for decades but has become more commonly diagnosed now than in the past. You may be at risk if you are overweight, male, over the age of 40, or have a large neck size. Experiencing reflux or having a deviated septum are also risk factors. One of the worst effects is of sleep apnea is fatigue.
Your sleep may be interrupted constantly during the night without your even knowing about it. Thus you may not get the deep sleep your body needs each night and your brain may be deprived of the natural amount of oxygen it needs.
If you think you have sleep apnea, your physician should evaluate you. This is not a condition that you have to live with. You can overcome this serious health issue.
The treatments include lifestyle changes, yes this may mean losing weight. You may have tried many times to lose weight only to give up as you never accomplished your goal. However, you will be surprised at how a quality of life-threatening disorder can inspire you.
A simple maneuver such as changing your sleep position can lead to better sleep. A third treatment is CPAP therapy.
It may be the least desirable but after you give it a try, it may be well worth the discomfort of the CPAP machine. Medical scientists are constantly developing new therapies to help the problem of sleep apnea. Do not hesitate, go to see your physician if you have difficulty sleeping. It may be an easy fix
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
This syndrome is exactly what it says. An irresistible urge to move your legs. This may transpire at night and may affect your arms as well as your legs. It is very uncomfortable and distressing and makes sleep difficult. No one knows why we may get or have restless leg syndrome. For many of us, it is intermittent, and we just learn to live with it. For others, it is a constant problem. There are a few recommendations that may help with RLS but if you have RLS constantly, it is a major problem. Lifestyle changes are recommended.
- First, try exercise. Sounds like this will not be of benefit but it often helps to alleviate the symptoms.
- Establish regular sleep habits. Go to bed at about the same time every night and get into a routine that works for you.
- Hot baths or leg massages will often help you to settle down before trying to sleep.
- Drinking fewer drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol, especially in the evening.
- Smoking less, especially later in the evening.
- Using a vibrating pad on your legs.
You do not have to suffer from RLS. It may only take eliminating items from your lifestyle till you find the one thing that sets it off. If that does not work, your physician may be of benefit as there are medications that can be prescribed to help you get a better night’s sleep and reduce your RLS.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is similar to RLS. While RLS occurs before you go to sleep, PLMD occurs after you are asleep. An underlying medical problem may cause PLMD. This is another good reason to talk to your doctor. However, in many cases, there are no known causes. The movements disrupt your sleep which leads to fatigue and general malaise of not feeling well.
Normal aging does not include these changes. These can and do occur to many not considered “seniors”. Do not assume that because of your age you have to learn to live with these sleep disruptions.
So You Can Not Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential to keep active and alert during the day.
If you have difficulty falling asleep try the following:
- Sleeping and waking on a routine schedule
- Exercising on a routine basis (consult your doctor before starting an exercise program)
- Avoiding caffeine for at least 8 hours before going to bed
- Avoiding nicotine and alcohol during the evenings
- Napping for no longer than 20 minutes during the day
Sleeping well is living well!
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