Sleep Disorders In Older Adults

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As baby boomers are moving through they're 40s and 50s, more and more of them will develop sleep problems that come hand-in-hand with getting older.

Like skin wrinkles, we have sleep system wrinkles, Dr. Neil Kavey, the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith for the Young At Heart series.

Many boomers expect to lead active lives much longer than their parents and grandparents did, and that means they'll need quality sleep to fuel all those activities.

"We have more stresses, more things to deal with," Kavey says, "our physical health changes in ways. Arthritis and other things feed into this already-weakening system."

And as we get older, he says, we can no longer get away with not having enough sleep.

"Where we could be careless about things in our 20s or 30s," he says, "we didn't have to get as much sleep. If you got six hours of sleep and you're 25, you'll survive. But it's a less efficient system. There is not as much deep sleep when you're 45 or 50 so it takes more of an impact on you."

Conditions such as arthritis, prostate problems, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and many others can interfere with sleep. However, the healthier you are, the more likely you will be able to sleep, Kavey says.

"As we get older, more things go wrong with our body, we need medications. Those can affect our sleep," he says.

Other things that may interrupt your sleeping are bladder problems, stress, snoring, sleep apnea, arthritis, alcohol, caffeine, and of course, your bed partner's sleep issues.

"For every person in the 40s and 50s who has a sleep problem, there is a bed partner who has a sleep problem," he says. "If you're up in the night, your spouse is up in the night — two for one."

And if your parents had trouble sleeping, there's a pretty good chance that you will too. But there are things you can do. The following is his advice:

Have Good Sleep Hygiene: Get to bed at a reasonable hour and try to give yourself enough time to get the sleep that you need. This changes from person to person — it could be 7, 8, 9 hours, etc. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid caffeine after a 2 p.m. It takes that long for the effects of it to leave your system.

Exercise: Exercise is good for general body health. You won't awaken with as many aches and pains.

Relax: When we're young, we can just crash. But the sleep system isn't as strong in our 40s, 50s and 60s. It doesn't come in with the same drive. It doesn't last with the same drive. You have to decompress and set the stage for it to come in. Limit your stress.