older you get. The problem gets so bad that by our 80s, the lack of sleep can
have major health ramifications, though we don’t always notice.
reduction in the quantity and quality of deep sleep- the stage that
beneficially overhauls your cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic systems and
refreshes learning and memory abilities. As you enter your 20s and 40s your
deep-sleep brain waves become smaller, less powerful and fewer in number.
Reductions in deep-sleep quality increase your risk of heart attacks, obesity,
and stroke, as well as the buildup of a toxic brain protein called beta amyloid-
that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
fragmentation. The older we get, the more frequently we wake up throughout the
night. Causes include body pain and a weakened bladder.
Because of sleep fragmentation, older people will suffer a
reduction in sleep efficiency, defined as the percent of time you were asleep
while in bed. Inefficient sleep is no small thing. The lower an older
individuals sleep-efficiency score, the higher their mortality risk, the worse
their physical health and the lower their cognitive function typified by
forgetfulness. The third sleep change with advanced age is that of circadian
timing- the bodies internal clock that times our sleep- wake rhythms. Seniors
commonly experience a regression in circadian timing, leading to earlier
bedtimes. Changes in circadian timing with advancing age may appear harmless,
but they can be the cause of numerous sleeping (and waking) problems in the
elderly. Older adults often want to stay awake later into the evening, but find
themselves inadvertently falling asleep. Accidental evening snoozes release
otherwise healthy sleep pressure that builds in the daytime. Irrespective of
how old you are, those unplanned naps will make it harder to sleep at night.
elderly individuals, their circadian rhythm will start to rise around 4 or 5 am,
even if they had trouble falling asleep the night before. A self-perpetuating
cycle ensues wherein many seniors are battling a sleep debt.
realizing how much their sleep has degraded. This means that elderly
individuals fail to connect their deterioration in health with their
deterioration in sleep. Not all medical problems of aging are attributable to
poor sleep. But far more of our physical and mental health aliments are related to
sleep impairment than either we, or many doctors, truly realize or treat
Adapted from an article in Wall Street Journal by Dr.
Matthew Walker from his book “Why We Sleep”.
Dr. Galante is a graduate from the Tufts University – Dental
Sleep Medicine Mini Residency program. He is recognized by the American Academy
of Dental Sleep Medicine as a qualified dentist which signifies over 15 hours
of graduate study in the field of Dental Sleep Medicine. Our office can screen
and in many cases, treat snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, Upper Airway
Resistance Syndrome, and other sleep related maladies. If you are interested in
pursuing the third pillar of health, good, restful sleep, besides exercise and
diet, please give our office a call to set up a free 20-minute consultation