Sleep and the Art of Embracing Your Aging Internal Clock
Do you ever find yourself nodding off while watching your favorite evening TV show? Are you frustrated by the fact that you wake up at 4:00 in the morning?
Whether we like it or not, our changing internal clock, or “circadian rhythm,” can have a big impact on our life after 60. While the rest of the world is on a “normal” schedule, we struggle to participate in the evening activities that we used to love.
Today I watched a fascinating video on the topic of sleep and aging, presented by Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD. If you have an hour free, I would highly recommend watching this presentation.
In the video, Dr. Ancoli-Israel covers many aspects of sleep after 60. She explores what happens to our sleep patterns as we get a little older. She talks about the impact that our health, medications and lifestyle can have on our sleep. She also discusses how our circadian rhythms change as we get older and the impact that this can have on our sleep.
Just in case you don’t have time to watch the entire video, I wanted to call out a few specific ideas here. Obviously, this is in no way medical advice and you should consult your own doctor before making any changes in to your diet or starting an exercise program. That said, since so many women in the community suffer from poor sleep, I felt that I needed to give you these highlights.
In the video, Dr. Ancoli points out that, as we age, our circadian rhythm has a tendency to “advance.” This means that, by the time we are in our 60s, we may start getting sleepy at 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening and want to wake up at 3:00am.
Can You Embrace Your New Circadian Rhythm?
One option, if your lifestyle supports it is simply to embrace your new internal clock and go to bed earlier. She points out that this could be as simple as taking the TV shows that you usually watch in the evening and watching them in the morning. I love this simple idea!
What if You Can’t Change Your Lifestyle to Match Your Internal Clock?
But, what if your lifestyle doesn’t support this? For example, what happens if you are still working or you need to look after your grandkids in the evening? Dr. Ancoli-Israel gives a few options. First, she says that you can expose yourself to bright light in the evening.
Since sunlight is one of the inputs that your circadian rhythm uses to set itself, this can help to keep it in check. Conversely, you may want to be careful about exposing yourself to bright light early in the morning. In the video, she says that, if you like taking a morning walk, you may want to wear your sunglasses.
What I love about this video is that it offers practical advice for dealing with your aging brain. I hope that this gives you a few more things to discuss with your doctor on your next visit!
Have you noticed that you get sleepy earlier in the day now that you are a little older? Have you tried any of the ideas mentioned in this article? How did they work for you? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going.