Help! I’m having trouble sleeping

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

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One of the challenges that I, like many people face as they age, is a change in their sleep patterns. Not too many years ago, I’d get into bed, be asleep in minutes and sleep soundly through the night. Oh, how I miss those nights. Now, while I still fall quickly asleep most nights, rather than sleep through the entire night, I take what a friend of mine calls multiple “short naps.”

For most of us seniors, Mother Nature often requires that we get up in the middle of the night, which isn’t the biggest issue. Getting back to sleep is the problem, and as you know if you read my columns, I’m not a big fan of adding yet another drug or pill to my growing med list for sleeping. Over the counter drugs often have ingredients that I don’t want in my body. Even melatonin doesn’t seem to work for me, so I’m looking for another solution. Here are some interesting things that I’ve learned in my search for a solution to getting a good night’s sleep, since sleep is so very critical to good health.

The first thing to know is the importance of sleep as it impacts several aspects of your well-being. For instance, your weight. If you suffer from disruption of nightly sleep, that can slow the loss of fat and make it more difficult to lose weight even if you’re following a restricted calorie diet.

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Far more consequential is that a lack of sleep can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, where a cluster of risk factors can occur simultaneously. When several of these factors occur, the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes increases.

While I’ve tried several of the following suggestions, I continue to seek a consistent solution to my personal sleep pattern issues. Here are some things that I have tried that health experts recommend to achieve the goal of 7-8 hours of sleep nightly:

Do your best to avoid lengthy afternoon naps: Long afternoon naps alter your sleep cycle and may diminish your need for a full night’s sleep. A quick, midday 10–15-minute catnap may help refresh you and do so without negatively altering your body’s need for a full night’s sleep.

Bedtime consistency: Go to bed about the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning to establish a healthier, more consistent sleep pattern.

Create a healthy sleep environment: A dark bedroom will help a person feel more ready for sleep; turn off all TVs and computers before going to bed; and if you can, keep laptops or cell phones out of the bedroom to avoid temptation and reduce interruptions to your sleep pattern.

Avoid large meals before bedtime: You’re less likely to feel tired when your body is digesting a substantial meal. Also imbibing caffeinated drinks like coffee or tea and some soft drinks that contain caffeine tends to keep people more alert and awake and should be avoided.

Stay active: When a people are more physically active during the day, they tend feel more tired in the evening. That’s due to the body using more energy to sustain an active daily lifestyle, making sleep easier to achieve and sustain throughout the night.

While these are some of the things that I’ve been experimenting with for some time now, I’ve not yet achieved the sleep consistency I’m seeking. All I can say to you if you’re also struggling with the challenges of getting a full night’s sleep is good luck. Let me know if you come up with the answer.

Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: