In Health

By Tom Carlson, Director of Development

Can we sleep well as we grow older? Yes! says Dr. Michael Vitiello, an internationally recognized expert on sleep and sleep disorders in older adults. On May 3rd, Dr. Vittiello gave Bayview’s 2nd Annual Lecture on Healthy Aging, speaking to an audience of some 100 residents and friends of Bayview on the topic, Growing Older Does Not Mean Sleeping Poorly: Dispelling Some Myths about Sleep and Aging.

Good sleep–along with diet and exercise–is one of the three key pillars of health, said Vitiello. In fact, it’s a great deal. It improves concentration, sharpens memory, helps control weight, improves mood, and can decrease the risk of accidents, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s 100 percent natural. And it’s free!

It has been commonly thought that growing older means suffering from poor sleep. But groundbreaking research by Vitiello and colleagues shows that poor sleep is not because of aging itself.

Sleep patterns do change with age. As we age, it takes a little longer to fall asleep, and then stay asleep and sleep deeply. But it turns out that most age-related changes in sleep quality occur between the ages of 20 and 60. In healthy people, sleep quality does not decline significantly after age 60.

Sleep disturbance in older adults is caused by: 1) medical conditions such as pain or depression and their treatments, 2) poor sleep habits such as irregular sleep schedules and unconducive sleeping environments (noise, light, room temperature, bedding), 3) sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome; and 4) stress and worry.

The good news is that such sleep disruption—even chronic insomnia—is treatable. First and foremost, establish a regular bedtime schedule and improve other sleep habits (Google “The 13 Commandments for Better Sleep ). Second, utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI)—a practical method to help change patterns of thinking or behavior. 37 studies have shown CBTI to be the gold standard in restoring good sleep. And only then consider pharmacological treatments.

The takeaway? Stay healthy and continue to sleep well. Sleep well and continue to stay healthy.

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