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    Aging Well Partners
  • Sep 28
  • 4 min



Oh, the things I could do, if I didn’t have to bother with sleeping. Can you imagine if you had 24 hours a day to accomplish your to-do list? The rest of the world would wake up at 7am ready to start their to-do list, but you already had a 7-hour head start. You’d be invincible!
But like our trusty phones, laptops, and smart watches, if they don’t get recharged overnight, they are useless items the next day. We may as well leave them at home. And that is why we as humans need great, deep restful sleep each night, so we are 100% charged, ready for the day, and not a useless thing that should just stay home.

There are many nights when I wish the Sandman would dump a bucket of dust on me that would knock me out for the night into a deep uninterrupted slumber. I can’t imagine anyone hasn’t experienced a night of insomnia at least once. You’re tired, you get into bed and nothing. Just wide awake. Even worse if your mind isn’t racing. Nobody talks about insomnia that doesn’t have a worry mind to blame for it. You just can’t sleep. If you experience insomnia, what’s it doing to your health, and why does it get worse as we age?
The term sleeping like a baby always made me laugh, because aren’t babies notorious for not sleeping? I think the true meaning is that when babies finally sleep, they accomplish deep, peaceful and REM filled sleep. Babies have such quality sleep, and they accomplish so much during that deep sleep like massive brain development. If you were to sleep deprive a baby, it would lead to decreased brain development, learning problems, and more frequent negative emotions.

If you’re an adult surviving off little sleep this isn’t a great achievement when you consider what you’re sacrificing in the end. A shorter lifespan for one. Lack of sleep also sets us up for feelings of worry and stress. It then triggers that feeling of always being tired, we don’t manage our daily tasks well, and often trigger anxious feelings of just more worry. Not a great cycle at all. Research says lack of sleep puts us at much higher risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. So even if you’re doing it right: exercise, diet, meditation; but are sleeping poorly, you may be cancelling out all your other good habits.

The sweet spot for going to bed is between 10pm and 11pm. My dad used to tell me and my sisters that every hour we were asleep before midnight counted for double. No doubt he just wanted us to go to bed, and of course, as kids we believed it! However, my dad had something to his urban legend. Studies show falling asleep between 10 and 11pm is the best time for heart health, as it’s the optimum time for our circadian rhythms and daylight exposure. Pops had something here!
Americans are notoriously sleep deprived, and as we age it seems to get worse. If you struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD you are more likely to experience insomnia. A double whammy. And a study by Columbia Psychiatry from November 2021 reported that COVID increased insomnia by at least 20%. Studies further suggest there is a link between insufficient sleep, mental health disorders, and thinking about suicide.

Your mental health is more connected to getting a good night’s sleep than you realize. You may be trading your future cognition by cheating yourself of sleep now. To get ahead in your day by dogging sleep, you are shortening not only your life but the quality of life. It won’t matter how much money you make, how successful you are, if you’re not around very long both in body and mind to enjoy it all. The emotional burden and cost are also staggering to your family as well.

Tips to Get Grabs Those ZZZZs:
1. Consistency is the key. Wake up around the same time every single day. Believe me this will be the greatest reset for a poor sleep cycle.
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine that you look forward to each night.
3. Seven hours a night is the magic number for most aging adults so make it a goal to log your hours of sleep just like you would your miles at the gym. Commitment and consistency!
4. If the insomnia bug hits you, don’t lie in bed awake. Go do something relaxing until you feel tired. Better to spend an hour reading than the whole night trying to fall asleep.
5. Environment matters! Just like Gizmo in Gremlins couldn’t take bright lights, neither can we humans. If you need a bit of noise to sleep, keep it low, and the right temperature is key to a restful night.
6. Blue light and electronics are bad, so ditch them too. There are electronic readers available that don’t have blue or harsh lights if you’ve given up hard copies of reading material.
7. Exercise in the morning to early evening, but too late and that will trigger a bout of insomnia as well.
8. Know your caffeine cut off time. Some can drink to the end of the night, but others are so sensitive that anything past noon will keep them up.
9. For all you home office workers, give yourself a hard deadline of when the emails, calls, and text stop. Draw your end-of-day line in the sand and stick to it. No exceptions. Your mind needs the time to turn off and get ready to sleep.

As a self-confessed Night Owl I’ve always struggled with the commitment to go to bed early and get up at the same time each day; but a few years ago, I started making changes and I’ve experienced the huge difference it’s made in my own life. An investment in quality and consistent sleep is the best retirement plan. Make your plan and commit to it. Age Well.

Jacqui Clark is a Certified Senior Advisor™ (CSA™), consultant with Living Coastal Senior Resources, and co-founder of Aging Well Partners. She is an industry leading living-and-aging well expert, and a respected communications specialist. She’s lived in San Diego for 35 years, much of that in Carlsbad where she and her husband live with their two daughters. Find Jacqui at www.agingwellpartners.com