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Harvard Health Blog
Aging and sleep: Making changes for brain health
- By Margaret O'Connor, PhD, ABPP, Contributor
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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
I struggled with sleep apnea for about 3 years before finding a competent sleep clinic. Addressing the sleep apnea with a good medical doctor changed my sleep life! I sleep between 7 and 8 hours almost every night without waking up. My nights AND days are so much better! Heaven!
I once got up and looked for the most boring book in my library. I chose Ancient Education and Today. It was fascinating, and I stayed awake for hours, but I didn’t mind because I was enjoying myself. So maybe it doesn’t matter much if we don’t sleep every now and then, as long as we find something that we enjoy.
Insomnia runs in our family. I am 83 years old and am prescribed Trazadone, Gabapentin and Clonazepam. Even with these meds I am lucky if I get 6 hours of sleep. Have been tested for sleep apnea – none. I go to bed same time each evening after a cup of Chamomile tea, yet wake up tired and am fatigued all day long.
I am not sedentary, walk 2 – 3 miles daily. Is there help for me???
If you are able try swimming or walking In the pool for at least 20 minutes in an evening or late afternoon time period. This always helped my ADDHD son when he was a teen and it helped me a great deal when working a stressful job. Try for 3-4 x a week.
Where can we get an incandescent bulb?
I have been using a sleep meditation with very soft music, and it seems ..to help. Also I am wondering …about the value of “sleep aid”.
doxylamine succinate 25mg.???
More than a year, I sleep about 7 hours at night and 3 in the afternoon.
Recently I am awaked after 7 hour nigh sleep for about 3 more hours.
Otherwise Im OK
good article for sleep. But as you getting older, it is hard to get good sleep regardsless
I live in California with legal cannibus. I frequently take a small amount before bed and I sleep well. I wonder though if I am getting good quality of sleep?
How many hours of sleep are required for a person with enlarged heart?
My dr husband tried to convince me about so-called “sleep hygiene” regarding my desire to read in bed (my pre-sleep ritual) and wanted me to read elsewhere. Fact is, I have been reading myself to sleep since I was very young (and then, my parents read bedtime stories out loud to help get us kids to sleep). For me the association between reading and sleeping is absolute. If I wake up at night, I read a little (still in bed!) and conk out easily. (It seems to be the specific combination of reading AND being horizontal and warm, with low lights, so if I’m sitting in a chair during the day to read, no, I do not fall asleep!)
But medical advice is to get up, go read elsewhere and “only sleep in bed.” Leaving the cozy bed to go read somewhere else, at hubs’s request, ruined my nights. The walking to and from a reading chair woke me up thoroughly.
Now I’m back reading in bed, fading into sleep, and the rare occasion I awake at night, a little in-bed reading (yes, with an LED, sorry, but very dim, and hubs does not wake up) helps me ease right back into dreamland.
Habits are as important as “sleep hygiene,” if not more so!
I have a lifetime of sleep issues but now that I’m retired and seldom have to worry about rising early really early I find most of the time I can get enough sleep if I do what Weena says…turn on a light and read for a while. It seems to interrupt the mind’s insistence of going over and over useless stuff. I also have no desire to move into another, probably cold, less comfortable area. I usually become sleepy, turn off the light and fall asleep again. It’s a relief from years of sleepless torture.
I have found that listening to certain podcasts, where the voice pitches are fairly even, is a great help.
I read somewhere once that lying in bed after waking up in the morning costs you some of the benefit of the time spent sleeping – I think it was that for every five minutes you lie in bed awake you lose the benefit of twenty minutes of sleep. I think the science of it is that when you’re lying down the brain secrets chemicals to make you sleep, and since you don’t go back to sleep, those chemicals stay in the brain and have the effect of dragging you down throughout the day.
I’ve been working nights for over forty years. I find that with me, it isn’t the shift you work that affects mental functioning so much as the hours of quality sleep you receive.
Great article, very informative!
Great article and tips on improving sleep! Most of us are unaware of the effects of the sleep deprived brain in correlation to the physical body.
As I am reading this article, I am getting very sad because I am doing everything Dr. Suzanne Bertisch suggested. However, I still suffering from insomnia for over a year. I am a middle age between the age of 50-56 and in menopause. I am very much scared for my brain healthy of this sleeplessness and want to solve it. My doctor’s suggestion is sleep pills, which I refuse to take because of so much side effects. I have tried a lot of over the counter sleep aids as well as natural products like teas and milk with ginger and turmeric before going to bed. However, nothing has helped. So, as of the past 2 nights, I am taking a Benydral pill with an over the counter sleep pill called Remfresh, and I have slept for 6 hrs. I don’t know if I should keep doing this or this has more side effects than sleeping pills? Please help me! I greatly appreciate any response! Best Regards,
Have you tried Melatonin? I take 2 each night; Trader Joe’s Chewable peppermint flavor, 3 mg. Have you tried Ibuprofen? That can help, too. I used to be somewhat dependent on Benadryl; then read there’s some speculation that there may be a link with it and the development of Alzheimer’s, which scared the heck out of me. Do your own research about its safety. Good luck!
I am an online student with Futurelearn where I have learnt about food as Medicine.
I am over 65 years.and I sleep like a child unlike before when I could sleep like 4 hours or less. From there I concluded that there are things that make the body sleep well.
My doctor prescribed non-addictive Trazadone for sleep. It is an early antidepressant that had such a strong soporific effect that it was useless as an antidepressant. My prescription is below the antidepressant effectiveness level, but it works beautifully to help me sleep through the night. I use it to regulate my sleep cycle when it has slipped too late. Without trazodone, I sometimes was awake all night and sleeping most of the day.
Hi Angela. I had similar experience. I do yoga, get moderate exercise and eat more vegetables, tree nuts and beans ; and avoid anything made with dairy, sugar or grains. Sometimes I get up at midnight and stretch muscles and do light exercises for about 10 minutes.
Of course everyone is different. I read book Eat Right for Your Type (blood type) and subsequent books by same author. There are very specific recommendations therein that really seemed to help me.
Benadryl is pretty bad stuff:
Acute kidney injury (AKI) can be caused by diphenhydramine (Benadryl, McNeil). We do not usually think of this drug as a major source of renal impairment, but it can cause problems in some predisposed patients, including elderly populations. It can also trigger heart palpitations. I suggest you try exercising early in the day and a light snack like milk and crackers before bed. Good luck.
Have you thought about CBD or mild Cannabis? Talk to your Doctor about alternative treatments. Also YouTube is a great resource for 528 sleep frequencies. Meditations for sleep.
Magnesium helps, soaking in Epsom salts.
I hope something helps you..
Do everyday some cardio excercise for 25 minutes without a break.that’s the best way improve you sleep.
It’s time to talk to a therapist and work through whatever underlying problems are keeping you awake. I came to terms with a lot of things that were plaguing me under the surface. No formal therapy but I had difficult dialogue with siblings about their lack of support with our parents care – and a lot more about the gender bias and internalized sexism in my family. Now it’s off of me after a number of years. I pray and I sleep like a gem. My soul has been lifted and my heart is happier.
Circadian Rhythyms and sleep patterns are linked and are set by the light source entering through your eyes as indicated in this Harvard Article
A person can set the rhythm by getting adequate sunlight or as in some nursing homes changing the lighting and you can research this online. Also if you are a little restless it could be due to magnesium deficiency and I have heard of people taking it before bed to help sleeplessness and restless leg syndrome. Magnesium sources you can find online but the best form is a pico-ionic liquid form which absorbs better and I have heard good testimonies on its usage so do some research and find what works for you.
If you do wake up and decide to read for awhile to get back to sleep, do so with dim ‘warm’ (yellow/orange) light from an incandescent bulb, not an LED or compact fluorescent. And avoid reading anything intense or overly-interesting. I once bought an old book on birds, from the 1800s, that was just perfect for putting me to sleep!
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