Vail Daily column: The necessity of sleep

Our bodies just aren’t made to last forever. They wear out and that creates all sorts of issues; sleep disorders being just one of many.

As we age, we tend to need less and less sleep. For example, senior citizens generally require 30 to 60 minutes less sleep than those younger than them (MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine). In addition to the duration of the sleep, sleep intervals are also shortened. It’s not unusual for an older person to wake up several times during the night for no apparent reason.

There are many, many reasons that sleep may be disturbed. In addition to simple age, some of those might include:

• Depression

• Inactivity (no regular exercise)

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• Associated pain (i.e., arthritis)

• Medication side effects

• Use of alcohol or caffeine

Consult a doctor

Of course, when an elder complains of lack of sleep or appears more tired than usual, it prompts a caregiver to consider a physician’s visit, which is to be expected.

A thorough exam with a complete history may show some insights as to the reasons for the poor sleep patterns. Yet, it is also likely that no one area will be identified as the cause, thus requiring a slow methodical elimination of potential causes; such as treating any chronic pain issues or reviewing and altering medications. It is also very important that solid information be obtained from the elder during this treatment period.

Tips for better sleep

There are some simple, yet effective ways to improve one’s sleep:

• Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

• Reduce the intake of alcohol and caffeine during the day and especially just prior to bedtime.

• Avoid watching TV in bed.

• Increase your exercise programs (with your doctor’s permission, of course).

• Try reading prior to bed.

• Make certain you stick to a routine, i.e., getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.

Obtaining the proper level of sleep can be difficult. All sorts of issues can invade our minds as we try to fall asleep at night. The aging process doesn’t seem to cooperate with the sleep process very well.

Follow some of the easy tips mentioned above and hopefully sleep will once again be a pleasantry that you anticipate at the end of every day.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to or call 970-328-5526.

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