Sam Bauman: Naps for seniors who live a busy life | NevadaAppeal.com

Sam Bauman: Naps for seniors who live a busy life

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seniors who missed preschool or kindergarten probably don't recall hearing the command "nap time!" I missed both early school classes so don't recall it either. But here's some thoughts about napping.

The research by academics at the University of Surrey in Australia, along with colleagues at other institutions, tried to find ways of improving the sleep patterns of older people.

Researchers talked to 62 older men and women who are living in their own homes about their poor sleep patterns and three key findings emerged:

While many older people do not sleep well and feel tired during the day, they often do not want to take a nap because they believe daytime sleeping is a sign of laziness.

Older people often get up in the night to go to the toilet. So, to counter current advice to drink plenty of fluids during the day, they may often restrict how much they drink.

Older men and women would rather not visit their doctor for problems with their sleep, largely because of fear they will be prescribed some form of sleeping pill.

Recommended Stories For You

Keeping busy and active is important to many older people and they are concerned that sleeping medication may take away that control.

Napping in the afternoon has been hotly debated, according to http://www.everydayhealth.com. Afternoon sleepiness isn't unusual as you get older, but not everyone should give in to a nap, said Bradley Edwards, PhD to the health website.

"You should avoid napping if you've been diagnosed with insomnia because it interferes with your body's natural sleep rhythms." However, for many older adults, especially those who just aren't getting enough sleep at night, napping during the day is fine as long as the naps are short — 30 minutes or so — and you take one early in the afternoon, closer to lunch than dinner. "Otherwise, you can fall into a cycle of daytime napping and poor nighttime sleeping."

"A meta-analysis demonstrated that the amount of sleep we have decreases by approximately 10 minutes per decade up to the age of 60, and that this decline is more pronounced in men compared with women," said Edwards, sleep expert and instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Having realistic expectations is key, the website suggests. The normal changes in sleep for seniors can include:

Sleeping for less time

Taking longer to get to sleep

Waking up more often at night

Waking up earlier

Feeling sleepy earlier

Napping in the afternoon.

Here's what the clinical staff at the famed Mayo Clinic staff wrote about napping:

Napping isn't just for children. Understand the pros and cons of napping and the best way to take a nap.

If you're sleep deprived or just looking for a way to relax, you might be thinking about taking a nap. Napping at the wrong time of day or for too long can backfire, though. Napping offers benefits for healthy adults, including:

Relaxation

Reduced fatigue

Increased alertness

Improved mood

Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, better memory, less confusion, and fewer accidents and mistakes

Napping isn't for everyone. Some people have trouble sleeping in places other than their own beds. Napping can also have negative effects, such as:

Sleep inertia. You might feel groggy and disoriented after waking up from a nap.

Nighttime sleep problems. Short naps generally don't affect nighttime sleep quality for most people. However, if you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. You might consider making time for a nap if you:

Experience new fatigue or unexpected sleepiness

Are about to experience sleep loss, for example, due to a long work shift

Want to make planned naps part of your daily routine To get the most out of a nap, follow these simple tips:

Keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 30 minutes. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy afterward.

Take naps in the afternoon. The best time for a nap is usually mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3 p.m. This is the time of day when you might experience post-lunch sleepiness or a lower level of alertness. Naps taken during this time are less likely to interfere with nighttime sleep.

Create a restful environment. Nap in a quiet, dark place with a comfortable room temperature and few distractions.

That's what the experts say. Personally, I do about 15 minutes in the afternoon before going to the computer.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.

Go back to article