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World Sleep Day March 15 2019
This year world sleep day focuses on the importance of sleep and ageing. With ageing, changes in our body clock and hormonal changes can cause increased sleepiness earlier in the day. In addition the production of melatonin (a natural hormone that promotes sleep) is reduced and we can find it harder to fall off to sleep at a normal sleep time.

Medical conditions like Parkinson disease, waking at night to urinate, indigestion and lung diseases such as asthma or COPD can affect sleep. The drugs used to treat these conditions may also interfere with sleep. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression can both interfere with getting to sleep as well as cause wakefulness during the night.
At least 1 in 4 older people have sleep apnoea or periodic limb movement disorder. These problems can also disturb the sleep of your bed partner.

What can I do to improve my sleep?

  • It is very important to keep regular sleep hours. So try to go to bed at about the same time every night and get out of bed about the same time every morning. Avoid sleeping in, even if you have had a poor night’s sleep and are tired.
  • Don’t go to bed too early and try to only spend the time in bed that you actually need for sleeping. If you happen to wake early, think about getting out of bed and starting your day.
  • Exposure to sunlight during the morning and late afternoon also help your body clock.
  • Day time exercise (preferably outdoors) will help you to get sleepier at night.
  • Avoid eating and drinking alcohol 3hrs (preferably 4hrs) prior to bedtime.
  • Naps late in the afternoon or lasting longer than 15-20 minutes can affect your sleep. An afternoon nap may help your energy levels but may also interfere with sleeping at night and are best avoided.

Talk to a medical professional if you have persistent sleep problems, that affect your daytime wellbeing and energy or you are always feeling sleepy during the day. Neither of these is a normal result of ageing and help is available.

It is important to remember that your sleep needs and patterns change as you age. Focusing on your sleep is as important as looking after your diet and exercising.