Sleep Aging

(( TTW many years, we've known that sleep in older people is -L very different from sleep in younger people," says Julie Carrier of the Sleep Center at the Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal. "Starting at 30 years of age, complaints about sleep increase, and they continue into a person's 80s."

There's a reason for that. "Older people have almost no slow-wave sleep," she says. "That's the deepest stage, when people sleep very, very soundly. What's more, as you age you wake up more often and have more trouble getting back to sleep."

Older people also have problems adapting to changes in sleep time, says Carrier. "They have a lot more complaints about the effects of shift work or jet lag. We believe that the sleep-wake cycle becomes more fragile, more vulnerable to disruptions."

Then there's menopause. "Hot flashes aside, complaints about sleep are one of the biggest problems reported by menopausal women," says Carrier. "Yet there are very few objective studies that try to understand why women have so many problems falling and staying asleep during menopause."

What can older people do to improve their sleep? "Try to take care of your sleep-wake cycle," says Carrier. "Go to bed and get up at the same time each day."54

Natural Prescription for Health: Hot flashes respond to a source of organic iodine. Men and women would do well to increase protein during the day to assist the body in having enough sleep-inducing tryptophan.

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