Tribune Print Share Text

Sleep: separating fact from fiction

Created date

February 9th, 2009

There have been many studies cited over the last few months about the importance of getting a good night sleep. There are also some myths out there about sleep. I thought I would reprint an article we did on sleep in our monthly newsletters, soon to be available electronically. So here it goes: Separating the Myths from Facts in sleep. ' See if you know which of the items concerning sleeping are myths and which are facts. You need less sleep as you get older. ' ' MYTH. The general agreement is older adults need as much sleep as younger ones, anywhere from seven to nine hours (ideal needs vary among individuals). But your ability to sleep undisturbed may change as you age. A variety of health issues can affect your sleep pattern, including sleep apnea, bladder problems, and depression. A little warm milk will help you sleep. ' ' FACT. Milk contains a chemical called tryptophan that helps stimulate sleep. Tryptophan isn t just in milk; you can try other dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese. Turkey and chicken also contain tryptophan. The difference is that the poultry products contain another chemical which can counteract tryptophan s sleep-inducing effects. Many medicines taken by older adults can cause insomnia. FACT. Diuretics and other medicines for lowering blood pressure, statin drugs for lowering cholesterol, cortisone for fighting arthritis, and drugs to reduce the effects of Parkinson s disease are just a few of the medication types that might be keeping you awake. If you can t sleep properly, let your doctor know and ask whether changing your medicines might help. Trouble sleeping is just a natural part of getting older. ' ' MYTH. Usually when older adults aren t sleeping well it s due to health problems; or negative feelings, like anxiety or disturbance at social isolation. Older adults who stay active, both mentally and physically, are more likely to sleep better. So are people who don t dismiss their sleep problems as natural. It s important you take the same attitude and seek answers when you have trouble sleeping. I find I sleep better when the room is cold. Of course, some people can sleep anywhere.