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Why is it important to track your sleeping patterns?

Lack of sleep can produce a number of serious side effects affecting every area of human health. Motor function is reduced, as is the attention span, with reaction times similar to that of an average adult after 4 glasses of wine.  This can lead to accidents and falls. It can also lead to the impairment of memory (long and short-term) and it can affect concentration and cause difficulty in understanding new things.

The impact on health

Lack of sleep can cause the immune system to produce less antibodies and T-lymphocytes, meaning the body becomes more prone to infection and has reduced capability to fight illness, which is bad enough, however lack of sleep can also impact on long-term health:

  • Insulin levels increase following sleeplessness, which can cause or exacerbate type 2 diabetes. 

  • Lack of sleep elevates the blood pressure for more than 24 hours.

  • The risk of depression and anxiety is increased when individuals sleep less than 6 hours a night.

Lack of sleep for older adults

For older adults (those over 65) the quest for a good night’s sleep can be particularly challenging. Research has discovered that even those older adults who are healthy may display significantly disturbed sleep with longer sleep onset time, and frequent awakenings during the sleep period.  Daytime napping to top up nocturnal sleep is common in older adults and may cause awakenings during the night and/or early waking. 

Some people find they need to urinate more frequently at night as they get older. Typically this shouldn’t be more than waking and going to the bathroom twice a night. If you see a sudden increase in night time toilet visits, you might want to chat to your doctor about it.

Lack of sleep for those with chronic illness

The pain and fatigue that people with chronic illness experience has a large impact on their daily lives, including sleep . Because of their illness, these individuals often have trouble sleeping at night, and are sleepy during the day. This is especially the case for people who have neurological (nervous system) diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Sadly this sleep deprivation can make the person's pain and quality of life worse. 

The first step is to try to control the pain associated with the illness. Once pain is controlled, sleeping may not be a problem. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate pain relieving medication that suits your condition.

Things that might help

  • Keep noise in the room and surrounding area down as much as possible 

  • Sleep in a dark room 

  • Keep the room temperature as comfortable as possible 

  • Eat or drink foods that induce sleep, such as warm milk (all dairy products when eaten with carbohydrate encourage sleep).

  • Try to avoid drinking too much fluid in the evening, (it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day). 

  • Avoid naps during the day 

  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine


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