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Good night and sleep tight


Good night and sleep tight

There’s no doubt that sleep becomes more topical – and often more elusive – as we age. KENDALL MORTON lists some practical steps for those who may be struggling to get a good night’s shut-eye.

New research from the University of Cambridge and Fudan University confirms the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. The study examined the UK Biobank health data of nearly 500,000 people aged 38 to 73 years.

The participants in the study were asked about their sleeping patterns, their mental health and general wellbeing.

They were given cognitive tests for processing speed, visual attention, memory and problem-solving skills. The results showed seven hours is the ideal amount of sleep for people in this age bracket.

Too much sleep, not enough sleep or inconsistent sleep was associated with poorer cognitive performance.

Also, participants who did not get seven hours of sleep a night reported more anxiety and depression and poorer general wellbeing.

Researchers say the findings suggest insufficient or excessive sleep duration may be a risk factor for cognitive decline in ageing. So, given the importance of sleep, what can you do about it? Here are some suggestions:

Manage your pain better. One reason for broken sleep is pain that is less intrusive in the daytime but becomes insistent at night. An aching hip, sciatica or a throbbing gouty toe can rob you of sleep. Review these issues in the daylight and take action. It may be that your favourite chair is not a good fit for you or perhaps you need a medication change.

Sleep with your partner. A new study shows adults who sleep with their partner or spouse sleep better than those who sleep alone. These sleepers reported less severe insomnia, less fatigue and more time asleep than those who slept alone.

They fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.

Stop the fidgets. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is one cause of broken sleep. It is often managed with a magnesium supplement taken in the evening. Ask your doctor about this.

Frequent leg cramps can also be a sign of low magnesium. Magnesium is also available in roll-ons for fast application.

Remove your bedside clock. Constant clockwatching will not help you sleep. If you must wake up with a clock, turn it around so you can’t read the clockface or put it under your bed.

Plan your day to suit YOUR sleep needs. It’s common to get anxious about early appointments – will I get to the doctor on time? Will I get my shower in before the tradesman arrives? Take this hassle away when possible.

Arrange appointments for later in the morning or in the afternoon. Be firm and say, “No visitors before 10am thank you.”

Avoid long afternoon naps. A short afternoon sleep can recharge your batteries but long naps make you less tired at night. Dr Wai Kuen Chow is medical director at the Woolcock Clinic in Sydney which specialises in sleep research. Her advice is to limit afternoon naps to 15-45 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t oversleep.

Prepare your body for rest. Eat your evening meal early so your body can work on digestion before bedtime. Avoid drinking water late in the evening.

Limit the light in your room. If your bedroom has too much external light, this can impair sleeping. You may need heavier curtains or a sleep mask. Rather than leave a hall light on to show the way to the bathroom, get yourself a reliable torch to keep on your bedside table.

 Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email

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