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Mental wellness

January 05, 2012

Feeling stressed? It could be lack of sleep

Nearly 75% of boomers are not getting a full eight hours of sleep each night, blaming sleepless nights on economic, financial and family woes.

feeling stressed

If you can name something better than getting a good night’s sleep, your fellow readers want to know. Finding a divine pair of shoes on sale or shooting an eagle on a par 5 arguably hasn’t a chance against waking up really rested. Actually, these days for many boomers, finding the shoes or shooting the eagle may happen more often than a peaceful slumber.

Research from the Better Sleep Council Canada shows that over the last decade nearly half of Canada's baby boomers have seen both their sleep quantity and quality go down.

A 2008 sleep survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council (U.S.) shows that nearly 75% of boomers are not getting a full eight hours of sleep each night, blaming sleepless nights on economic, financial and family woes. In fact, one in six reported chronic sleep problems -- difficulty falling asleep every night of the week.

The same issues plague Canadian boomers, says Karin Mahoney, spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, the non-profit organization that developed the survey. “The economy is still a huge stress factor,” says Mahoney. “Not having a job and worry about whether retirement money will last their entire retirement are keeping people awake at night.”

News media and health organizations remind us to get more sleep. Our biggest problem is we don’t prioritize sleep, the way we would an appointment or even a workout, says Mahoney. “People tend to use their bedroom as an office, as a jungle gym with kids,” she notes. “Take out the TV, computer and PDAs. When you keep a TV on, the brain picks up on that light and prevents you from having a deep sleep.”

The amount of quality sleep we get affects our alertness, mood, memory and productivity, and also boosts immunity and increases blood supply to our muscles, helping us to recover from the physical stresses of the day. Sleep deprivation, which happens more often than we realize, can sign you up for greater likelihood of weight gain, decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information and an increased risk of substance abuse, diabetes and heart problems. “If you don’t get enough sleep, you are prone to stress. If you are stressed, you won’t get enough sleep,” Mahoney warns. “It is a nasty cycle.”

The same sleep survey found that boomers would be willing to sacrifice chocolate (27%) and silence their cell phones (22%) forever in exchange for a great sleep every night for the rest of their lives. The same study showed 4% of female boomers even said they would be willing to swap sex for a lifetime of better sleep.

Sometimes it can be as easy as updating your mattress, says Mahoney. With age, bodies and weight distribution can change and so can the type of support needed.

10 tips for a great night's sleep

What else can you do when counting sheep just isn’t enough? Check out the following advice from the experts at the National Sleep Foundation, The Better Sleep Council and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done — stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.
  2. Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends.
  3. Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music — begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep.
  4. Transform your bedroom into a haven of comfort that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
  5. Sleep in a comfortable bed. Do some research and invest in a quality mattress and pillows.
  6. Make sure your bed is large enough. If you sleep with a partner, your mattress should allow each of you enough space to move about easily.
  7. Use your bedroom only for sleep and keep “sleep stealers” out of the bedroom — avoid watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed.
  8. Avoid eating just before bed — finish your dinner at least two hours before your regular bedtime.
  9. Exercise regularly. But most experts recommend avoiding strenuous exercise just before bed.
  10. Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.

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