One of the most overlooked health priorities in our lives is sleep. Most of this is due to the fact that Americans are busier than ever. But some of our poor sleep habits also stem from the belief in common sleep myths. When we understand sleep better, we can make it a priority. In turn, making a drastic difference to our daily lives.
Older People Need Less Sleep
All adults, no matter how old, need seven to nine hours of sleep to function at their best. Sleep patterns often change with age, causing older adults to wake more frequently during the night and get less nighttime sleep overall, according to experts from the National Sleep Foundation. And because they end up snoozing less at night, they might actually need more sleep during the day in the form of naps.
Snoring is Common and Unharmful
According to the National Sleep Foundation, although snoring may be harmless for most people, it can be a symptom of the sleep disorder, sleep apnea. This is especially true if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. People with sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath. The breathing pauses reduce blood oxygen levels, can strain the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Snoring on a frequent basis has also been directly associated with hypertension. Obesity and a large neck can contribute to sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be treated; men and women who snore loudly, especially if pauses in the snoring are noted, should consult a physician.
During Sleep, Your Brain Rests
The body rests during sleep, however, the brain remains quite active. While you are asleep, your brain is recharging. It is also still controls many body functions including breathing. When we sleep, we typically drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened, to “deep sleep” stages three and four.