If resting in bed were all it took to recharge body and mind for the coming day, insomniacs could take in their favorite late night television and start the next day fresh. But surprisingly, it's not how much sleep you get that's important—it's the level of sleep you achieve that truly restores you, body and mind.
Sleep can be divided into 2 crucial phases:
In addition to productivity and safety consequences, research shows that people who have insomnia or are chronically sleep deprived may be more likely to have an increased risk of:
People who do not get enough sleep may also:
Late or overnight healthcare, military and public safety workers, nuclear power plant operators, medical residents, and long-haul truck drivers, have work schedules that are contraray to the body's natural circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms dictate that the longest period of sleepiness occurs during the hours of 2:00-4:00 am. Thus, people who work these shifts lose may out on the time that the body is programmed for the deepest and most beneficial sleep.
Older adults also cope with their own difficulties that keep them from getting the sleep they need. For many, aging brings on a host of health-related problems that interrupt sleep, such as pain from arthritis or other conditions, or side effects from medications. More than any other population, older adults rely on medications to manage multiple conditions. Moreover, a more sedentary lifestyle doesn't allow for the expenditure of energy that results in restful sleep. Lastly, the brain doesn't allow for the same degree of deep sleep per night as enjoyed in youth.
None of this means that the older adults don't need as much rest as everyone else. The combination of conditions that change sleep habits only indicates that adjustments need to be made in order to get the proper amount of sleep.
In general, people are so used to going without enough sleep that they don't recognize that their sleeping habits make sound slumber unlikely. Following these simple tips will help you settle down for a good night's rest. Do the following to improve the quality of your sleep as well as to get more restful sleep:
If you're troubled with chronic difficulties falling asleep—or staying asleep—see a doctor. Sleep disorders are very common and can be treated.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council Canada
Canadian Sleep Society
How to sleep better. The Better Sleep Council website. Available at: http://www.bettersleep.org/better-sleep/how-to-sleep-better. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114839/Insomnia-in-adults. Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
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Shift work and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/shift-work-and-sleep. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Sleep drive and your body clock. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-drive-and-your-body-clock. Accessed October 2, 2017.
What happens when you sleep? National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Winkelman JW. Clinical practice. Insomnia disorder. N Engl J Med. 2015;737(15):1437-1444.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD