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Sleep Disorders

Suggestions for a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep Disorders

We all look forward to a good night's sleep. Getting enough sleep and sleeping well help us stay healthy. Many older people do not enjoy a good night's sleep on a regular basis. They have trouble falling or staying asleep. Sleep patterns change as we age, but disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day is not part of normal aging. In fact, troubled sleep may be a sign of emotional or physical disorders and something you should talk about with a doctor or sleep specialist.

Sleep and Aging

There are two kinds of sleep in a normal sleep cycle - rapid eye movement or dreaming sleep (REM) and quiet sleep (non-REM). Everyone has about four or five cycles of REM and non-REM sleep a night. For older people, the amount of time spent in the deepest stages of non-REM sleep decreases. This may explain why older people are thought of as light sleepers. Although the amount of sleep each person needs varies widely, the average range is between 7 and 8 hours a nig...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What Sleep Disorders are there?

  • All Sleep Disorders involve daytime stress and trouble with work, school or daily activities because of sleep problems during the night.
  • People with a sleep disorder often have depression, anxiety, trouble thinking, remembering or learning information that need to be treated along with the particular sleep problem.
  • Ongoing sleep issues like insomnia (trouble falling asleep) or excessive (too much) sleeping can lead to other mental health problems, so getting help is important if you suffer from these conditions.
  • There are 10 Sleep Disorders:
    • Insomnia Disorder - having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or going back to sleep after waking up.
    • Hypersomnolence Disorder - being really sleepy even though you slept at least 7 hours at a time
    • Narcolepsy - being unable to resist going to sleep or taking a nap
    • Breathing-Related Sleep Disorders - this includes 3 issues:
      • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Hypopnea - the person takes involuntary pauses in breathing during sleep where air cannot flow in or out of their nose or mouth. This causes them to be very tired during the day.
      • Central Sleep Apnea - when the brain doesn't send the right signals to start the breathing muscles during sleep, which causes the person to temporarily stop breathing.
      • Sleep-Related Hypoventilation - the person has decreased breathing and leads to an increase in blood carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
    • Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder - disruptions in a person's cycle of sleeping and being awake. This often happens because of a work schedule (for example, working overnight and sleeping during the day) that results in being very tired and sleeping a lot, having trouble going to or staying asleep (insomnia) or both.
    • Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) Sleep Arousal Disorders - the person has either Sleepwalking or Sleep Terrors while sleeping.
    • Nightmare Disorder - repeated and long dreams that usually involve trying to avoid threats to survival or physical safety.
    • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder - repeated episodes of vocalization (loud talking, yelling or screaming) and/or complex motor behaviors (kicking, punching, jumping out of bed, etc.) while asleep.
    • Restless Legs Syndrome - an urge to move the legs during rest or inactivity due to uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations in the legs (a "pins and needles" type of feeling or crawling, tingling, burning or itching sensations).
    • Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder - severe problems with sleep that started during or soon after using too much of a substance or while trying to stop using it. This could include alcohol, caffeine, sedatives, opioids, stimulants, cocaine, tobacco, or other medications.

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What are some tips for getting a good night's sleep?

  • Follow a regular schedule - go to sleep and get up at the same time. Try not to nap too much during the day - you might be less sleepy at night.
  • Try to exercise at regular times each day.
  • Try to get some natural light in the afternoon each day.
  • Be careful about what you eat. Don't drink beverages with caffeine late in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake. Also, if you like a snack before bed, a warm beverage and a few crackers may help.
  • Don't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes to help you sleep. Even small amounts of alcohol can make it harder to stay asleep. Smoking is dangerous for many reasons including the hazard of falling asleep with a lit cigarette. The nicotine in cigarettes is also a stimulant.
  • Create a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure there are locks on all doors and smoke alarms on each floor. A lamp that's easy to turn on and a phone by your bed may be helpful. The room should be dark, well ventilated, and as quiet as possible.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to tell your body that it's time to wind down. Some people watch the evening news, read a book, or soak in a warm bath.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light, give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you are still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you get sleepy, go back to bed.
  • Try not to worry about your sleep. Some people find that playing mental games is helpful. For example, think black - a black cat on a black velvet pillow on a black corduroy sofa, etc.; or tell yourself it's 5 minutes before you have to get up and you're just trying to get a few extra winks.

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News Articles

  • AHA: Sleep Apnea May Double Odds for High Blood Pressure in Blacks

    Black adults with high blood pressure that defies standard prescription treatments might want to get screened for sleep apnea, new research suggests. More...

  • Health Tip: Improve Your Sleep Habits

    Not getting enough sleep can trigger illness, poor performance in daily activities, memory loss and other health concerns, the agency adds. More...

  • Here's Something to Sleep On

    In what's billed as the world's largest sleep study, too little or too much sleep can impair your brain, researchers report. More...

  • Easing Sleep Apnea May Be Key to Stroke Recovery

    Sleep apnea is a known risk factor for stroke, and new research suggests that curbing the condition might also aid the recovery of people who've suffered a stroke or mini-stroke. More...

  • Sleep Apnea Often Missed in Black Americans

    Sleep apnea is common -- but rarely diagnosed -- among black Americans, researchers say. More...

  • 23 More
    • Here's How Sleepless Nights Can Trigger Weight Gain

      One sleepless night might tip the body's metabolism toward storing fat while depleting muscle, new research suggests. More...

    • Sleep Deprivation May Play Role in 'Global Loneliness Epidemic'

      Sleep problems can play havoc with your social life, a new study suggests. More...

    • Sound Advice for a Sound Sleep

      Insomnia affects up to 15 percent of Americans, but sleeping pills aren't the only -- or the best -- answer. A good sleep routine, exercise and mindfulness are all options to get the restorative sleep you need. More...

    • AHA: CPAP Machines May Bring Better Sleep, Plus a Healthier Heart

      People with sleep apnea, especially those over 60, could decrease their risk of heart failure by using CPAP masks at night to help with breathing, according to new research. More...

    • Health Tip: Suggestions For a Better Night's Sleep

      Not getting enough sleep? It's probably hurting your health. More...

    • Sleepless Nights Haunt 1 in 4 Americans

      Good sleep is hard to come by for the 25 percent of Americans who experience a period of severe insomnia each year, new research suggests. More...

    • Leave Tablets, Smartphones Out of the Bedroom for Better Sleep

      Are tablets, smartphones and laptops robbing Americans of shut-eye? Absolutely, said researchers who found that the unending entertainments and the light the devices emit are a powerful, slumber-killing combo. More...

    • Snorers, Could CPAP Help Your Sex Life, Too?

      Women with sleep apnea might experience a boost in their sex life if they regularly use a CPAP machine, a new study shows. More...

    • Sleep Apnea Rarely Investigated in Older Adults

      A high risk of obstructive sleep apnea is common among older adults but is seldom investigated, though when it is investigated, it is almost always confirmed, according to a study published online May 9 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. More...

    • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Linked to Thinning of Calvaria, Skull Base

      Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with thinning of the calvaria and skull base, according to a study published online May 3 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. More...

    • Medical Cannabis Not Recommended for Sleep Apnea

      Medical cannabis and/or its synthetic extracts should not be used for treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea, according to an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. More...

    • Even When You Think You're Not Sleepy, Your Car Crash Risk Rises

      You might be a drowsy driver without knowing it, and new research finds that can make you more dangerous on the road. More...

    • Health Tip: Speak With Your Doctor if You Aren't Sleeping Well

      If you aren't getting enough sleep, you'll probably feel very tired during the day. And you may not feel alert and refreshed when you wake up. More...

    • Reduced Cortical Thickness ID'd in Obstructive Sleep Apnea

      Reduced cortical thickness is seen in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) versus controls, with multiple regions of reduced thickness seen in the superior frontal lobe in females with OSA, according to a study published online March 6 in PLOS ONE. More...

    • Health Tip: Risk Factors For Insomnia

      Insomnia -- the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep -- affects more women than men, and older people more than younger ones. More...

    • Severe Sleep Apnea During REM Sleep Tied to Acute CV Events

      Severe obstructive sleep apnea that occurs during REM sleep is associated with recurrent cardiovascular events in those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the March 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. More...

    • Skipping CPAP May Mean Return to the Hospital for Apnea Patients

      If people with sleep apnea who've been hospitalized for any reason don't use their breathing treatments when they return home, they're much more likely to end up back in the hospital. More...

    • Health Tip: Manage Non-24 Sleep Wake Disorder

      Many people, the far majority of them blind, have non-24 Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24), which affects the circadian rhythm. More...

    • Non-Sleep Specialists May Offer Similar Quality Sleep Apnea Care

      Non-sleep specialists and sleep specialist physicians provide similar quality care with similar patient outcomes for adults with known or suspected obstructed sleep apnea, according to a review published online Jan. 30 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. More...

    • Americans Finally Getting a Little More Sleep

      New research suggests that people are sleeping a few more minutes each night than they used to. More...

    • To-Do List Before Bedtime Prompts Better Sleep

      It sounds counterintuitive, but researchers report that writing a to-do list just before you hit the pillow might send you off to sleep more quickly. More...

    • Wearing Amber Lenses Before Bed May Help With Insomnia

      For individuals with insomnia symptoms, wearing amber versus clear lenses for two hours before bedtime is associated with improved sleep, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research. More...

    • Associated Professional Sleep Societies, June 5-9, 2010