Skip to content

Archive for

Aging and Sleep

Do you ever wonder why teenagers can sleep 12 hours a day and some adults cannot sleep past 7 a.m.? This is attributed to the body’s natural sleep changes that occur as we mature and age. As we age, it is common to experience increased difficulty with sleep. This is due to many different environmental factors as well as sleep hygiene. These factors include:

Internal Factors

  • Menopause can cause nighttime heat flashes
  • Increased likelihood of disruptive sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Increased body pains due to osteoarthritis or back injury
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety, stress and depression
  • The biological clock tends to shift back in older adults causing tiredness earlier in the evening and waking up earlier 1

External Factors

  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Use of medications that can impact sleep
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Retirement and less physical activity during the day

A good indication of aging affecting sleep is experiencing more fragmented sleep and difficulty staying asleep. 1 Many older adults report feeling drowsy during the day or fatigued when they have actually received the adequate amount of sleep. This is due to restless nights and fragmented sleep. 2

The decline in stages three and four of sleep (deep sleep) and the increased stage one sleep. This is a major sign of age’s effect on sleep often beginning around age 35 to 45. 1 There has also been an observed decrease in sleep efficiency. Surprisingly, this decrease in deep sleep and sleep efficiency does not lead to sleeping longer. On average, individuals between ages 55 and 84 slept for 7 hours on weeknights and 7.1 hours on weekends. As compared to the hour difference in weeknight and weekend sleep for individuals 18 to 54. 2

Changing sleep needs due to the development of disorders and health issue can cause need for change in bed or mattress. Because sleep preferences also change as you age, ensuring that your sleep environment can compensate for your needed adjustment is very important. Purchasing a good quality adjustable mattress will allow you to adjust your bed to your changing preferences regarding mattress firmness as you age.

Overall, having good sleep hygiene and good overall health practices will help with age’s effect on sleep patterns. Many healthy adults may not experience difficulty sleeping as this difficulty is often linked to other sleep disorders or health problems. Taking into account the external and internal factors that affect sleep and sleep preferences as we age is the key to understanding what is necessary to give you the most restful night’s sleep possible.


1. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

2. National Sleep Foundation—Aging and Sleep;

Sleep and Sickness: Tips to better rest

Why is it that when we are sick and need rest the most, it is almost impossible to get?

Sleep helps to heal the body and improve the immune system, making it a vital part in recovering from sickness. Lying down can cause more congestion to occur making breathing more difficult. Additionally, this congestion can cause the need to breathe through the mouth, resulting in worsening cough or sore throat symptoms. By adjusting the sleep environment and carefully choosing medications, it is possible to make the most out of sleeping and allow sleep to heal your body.

Adjust Sleep Environment

When sick, it is the little things that will disrupt sleep the most. Make sure your sleep environment is ideal for a good night’s sleep.

  • Comfortable bed, pillow and light blankets will make it easy to fall asleep and adjust to temperature changes during the night.
  • Keep the room dark. Even the slightest light can be irritating when sick and disrupt sleep.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool. The idea is to not cause yourself to freeze, but to keep the temperature slightly lower than normal to help induce sleep.

Choosing Medication

Not all cold and flu medications will induce sleep as imagined. All medicines work differently with different people under different circumstances.

  • Avoid medication containing pseudoephedrine. This is commonly found in decongestants and can cause some to feel jittery.2
  • Nasal spray can help with congestion without attempting to induce sleep, making sleep more natural and fulfilling.
  • Avoid liquid medication containing alcohol as it will lead to fragmented sleep.
  • If suffering from sleep apnea, all sleep medications containing alcohol should be avoided so you are able to wake yourself if an episode occurs.
  • Until you are aware of your reaction to different medications, it is best to avoid them within 6 hours of bedtime.

Sleep Tips

  • Make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of fluid a day in order to help keep the nasal and throat passages hydrated. If you drink juice with vitamin C it will offer nutritional benefit.
  • Warm non-caffeinated beverages before bed can sooth sore throats and open nasal passages, helping to not disrupt sleep. Some suggestions are decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea with honey.
  • Try not to nap throughout the day. Doing this can confuse your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid taking multi-symptom cold medicines if you must use medication at all. Using a single symptom medication such as a decongestant, cough medicine or pain reliever will contain more than enough medicine to sooth symptoms.
  • Elevate the head on a wedge pillow or two regular pillows formed into a wedge to not cut of air flow, but prevent the nose from becoming clogged at night.
  • Avoid using sleeping pills when sick, especially when teamed with other cold medication. Mixing sleeping pills with medications containing alcohol is very dangerous.


1. National Sleep Foundation—Sleep May be Best Prevention for Cold, Flu;

2. WebMD—Sleep Better When You Are Sick;

Mattress Sizes

Buying a new mattress can be a confusing process that leaves you with a ton of questions. And after you have done your research and finally found the perfect mattress, you may think that you’ve got it all figured out. But, when you go to order your mattress and you see all the different sizes and dimensions that can vary by retailer, the confusion may come back. So here is a quick guide to help with choosing the right mattress size for you.

(click to enlarge)

Standard Mattress Size Chart

European mattress sizes can be even more confusing, they have more size options and are measured in centimeters. Below is a chart of European mattress sizes compared to U.S. mattress sizes.

European Mattress Sizes                                                                 United States

Centimeters                  Inches                                                           Inches

90×190                        35.4×74.8        Single                                     38×75              Twin
90×200                        35.4×78.7        Single Long                             38×80              Twin Extra Long
90×220                        35.4×86.6        Single Extra Long                     54×75              Full
140×200                      55.1×78.7        Euro Double                             60×80              Queen
140×220                      55.1×86.6        Euro Double Long                     76×80              King
160×200                      62.9×78.7        Euro King                                 72×84              California King
160×220                      62.9×86.6        Euro King Long
200×200                      78.8×78.7        Euro Super King
200×220                      78.7×86.6        Euro Super King Long

Avoiding Sleep Debt

People tend to think that once sleep is lost, it is gone forever. Many experts are saying that it is possible to catch up on sleep and is necessary to successful functioning of the mind and body. Sleep debt is sleep deprivation as it adds up and causes negative consequences such as weight gain, lack of focus, irritability, memory loss and fatigue. 1 Sleep debt does not go away on its own and can add up very quickly. Sleep requirements are different for different people; however, most individuals need between seven and nine hours of sleep to make up for 16 hours awake. 1

According to sleep expert and psychology professor Dr. James B. Maas, “You can’t repay years of sleep debt by one night of good sleep, any more than you can compensate for years of overeating by a one-day diet.” 1

Some of us can look back over the past month or year and see the sleep debt piling up. All those restless nights when you only managed to sleep for a few hours or waking up early to finish a project… We acquire sleep debt without even realizing that we have. In fact, because of the negative symptoms of being sleep deprived, the more sleep debt we have, the less our tired minds can notice how sleep deprived we have become. 2

The best way to repay sleep debt is by allowing yourself to recover from a sleepless week during the weekend. Most of us sleep late on the weekends, but we do not know exactly what we are making up for. If you miss 10 hours of sleep in a week, adding three or four hours to your weekend sleep schedule should help you recover from your debt. 2 Continuously planning on using the weekends to recover can cause you to accumulate more sleep debt and confuse your biological clock. This will also cause chronic sleep debt, which will only make it more difficult to return to sleep homeostasis. 3

If needing to repay a large sleep debt, it is suggested to take a relaxed vacation with very little activity planned and take the time to catch up on sleep and wake up naturally. 2 The most important thing is to avoid accumulating more sleep debt. By continuously allowing yourself to sleep as much as your body needs to, you will be preventing sleep deprivation and the harmful symptoms that come along with lack of sleep.


1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

2. Harvard Medical School—Repaying Sleep Debt;

3. WebMD—Sleep Debt Hard to Repay;

Lucid Dreaming-Can You Control Your Dreams? Part Two

Lucid dreamers make some pretty remarkable claims and we are only going to list a few for you today, but if you have had lucid dreams please share them in the comment section.

One woman began lucid dreaming in high school and used lucid dreams as a way to problem solve from everyday issues to school work. She continued this practice through medical school and even as a surgeon today who is able to complete a surgery more accurately and on average 40% quicker than her peers. Another person reports that he used lucid dreaming to perfect his defense skills as a black belt and was able to earn his instructing certification in less than a year. Many reports often come from children, one in particular that could recall lucid dreams from the age of five, the dream consisted of flying around the world in a rocket ship made out of a garbage can. The bottom of the garbage can was glass so that he could see everything below while flying and when it was time to land he was aware that he didn’t have proper landing gear, so he just simply said time to wake up right before impact.

Lucid dreaming is even being used as a therapy to help people overcome their fears and nightmares. The idea is that if you know that you are dreaming then the next logical step is to realize nothing in that dream can physically hurt you. No matter how scary a nightmare may be, if you are able to realize that it is just a dream than you should be able to conquer that fear. Many people have reported that after facing their fears or monsters in their nightmares through lucid dreaming that they transform into friendly creatures and even friends.

Even more recently new technology is allowing more possibilities than we thought possible, such as Daniel Oldis, a software engineer who has invented an EEG headband called the Zeo. The Zeo consists of a little red light bulb, internet connection, and programmed to connect with other users for what he calls “social dreaming”. This works by connecting two people in different locations in the world that are wearing the Zeo headband to bed, and it begins to collect brainwave data that it sends to a computer. When Zeo detects that both people have entered into REM sleep the light turns on and cues the sleepers to incorporate the light into their dream, hopefully without waking them, in an attempt that they realize that they’re in a dream and from there they can try to join in each others dreams.

LaBerge, S.. N.p.. Web. 22 Nov 2013. < Institute Research Papers.pdf?>

LaBerge, S., and L. Levitan. N.p.. Web. 22 Nov 2013. <;.

Parmy Olson, . N.p.. Web. 22 Nov 2013. <;