Remember the days when we got up at the crack of dawn to go jogging, worked long hours as we were starting our careers, went out and partied half of the night then got up the next day and did it again? Sleep used to be something we could live without. We were young, had boundless energy and could get away with only a few hours of sleep each night. Those days are long gone. Today, baby boomers need a good night’s sleep but few manage to get it.
Now in their 50s and 60s, baby boomers are sleep deprived. The average boomer needs eight hours a night but many can’t get to sleep or stay asleep. A Better Sleep Council study found close to 75 percent of baby boomers do not get a full eight hours of sleep a night.
Most boomers blame their sleep deficiencies on economic, financial and family worries but aging is also a factor. Baby boomers are more susceptible to sleep disorders as they grow older. But they aren’t alone. USA Today reports 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, shift-work sleep disorder or narcolepsy, as well as sleep disturbances associated with many diseases, mental illnesses and addictions.
We all need ample sleep to stay physically and mentally healthy. Quality sleep is vital to our overall well being. The amount of sleep we get determines how we feel during the day. It influences our reaction times, our memory and our overall functioning.
Sleeplessness slows down our reaction time, coordination and problem solving skills. It also weakens our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections, and diseases. A lack of sleep adversely affects our health and can increase a boomer’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of many serious health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart attacks and strokes, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also reduce our quality of life and productivity and lead to premature death.
There are also tangible consequences of sleep deprivation. According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, the cost of sleeplessness may be found in roughly 1,500 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries per year, most from car accidents. People doze off while driving and the results can be deadly. Sleep deprivation is also blamed for many work related accidents.
The National Sleep Foundation offers some tips for boomers with sleeping problems:
- keep regular bedtime and rising hours;
- avoid alcohol and tobacco;
- stop drinking coffee in the afternoons and evenings;
- avoid afternoon naps;
- exercise daily;
- use relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation;
- sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows;
- read rather than toss around in bed; and
- stop worrying.
Many boomers with sleep problems turn to the internet to learn about sleep disorders then, after educating themselves, go see a doctor for help. Often, medical expertise is needed to overcome sleep disorders and get a good night’s sleep.