Get a Good Night's Sleep as You Age

Remember your teenage years, when you could conk out at the drop of a hat and sleep until lunchtime? Those days are long gone for most of us. In fact, getting and staying asleep are a real problem for a lot of middle-aged folks. But sleep is crucial to your physical, emotional, and mental well being.

Here are some common sleep challenges and ways to deal with them:

Problem: Menopause

As many women in their 40s and 50s can attest, menopause, and the period leading up to it known as perimenopause, can really take its toll on sleep quality. Hormonal changes mean less estrogen and progesterone, natural chemicals that help you sleep. And the hot flashes accompanying these hormonal shifts can mean serious night sweats. Menopause can also cause stress and depression.

Solution: Try keeping your room dark and quiet, lowering the thermostat, and putting a bucket of ice and a cool cloth nearby for those 3 am hot flashes. You can also consider taking hormone replacement therapy if your menopausal symptoms are becoming unbearable.

Problem: Restless Leg Syndrome

This disorder is neurological and involves unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them around. It's often worse at night, and 80 percent of sufferers also have an association conditioned called periodic limb movements of sleep, which means you flex and extend your legs while sleeping. If your leg movements are severe enough to interfere with sleep, you may feel extremely tired during the day.

Solution: Your provider may suggest trying medication to calm your jittery limbs. Some common drugs for restless leg syndrome were originally developed to help other illnesses such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. If you don't want to take medication, simple lifestyle changes may help. Take warm, relaxing baths at night and cut out caffeine. Pain relievers may help, as can warm or cold packs on your legs.

Problem: Sleep Apnea

Does your partner tell you that you stop breathing at intervals during the night? You may have a condition known as sleep apnea. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxes too much and blocks the airway. The result? You can't breathe and you wake up, usually unknowingly and perhaps hundreds of times during the night. Not only does this affect your sleep quality, it also puts you at risk for cardiovascular problems due to your system's continuous lack of oxygen.

Solution: Many people have had good results with a CPAP machine. CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, keeps your air passages open and allows easier breathing. You might also try an oral appliance that keeps your throat open. You should talk to your doctor about the best solution for you.


National Sleep Foundation,