MYTH 1 You need less sleep as you get older
Not true, although getting enough sleep as you age can become more difficult because of hormonal and ageing changes.
‘We don’t necessarily need less sleep,’ says sleep expert Dr Irshaad Ebrahim (londonsleepcentre.com). ‘But we do tend to get less because we’re losing cells that make sleep-promoting substances, such as melatonin, and our brain volume shrinks, so drifting off and staying asleep can become more difficult.’
FIX IT Aim for seven to eight hours a night, but don’t worry about it, as long as you feel rested. Plan a wind-down routine before bed. Sleep problems, including sleep apnoea, are more common in women during and after menopause. Talk to your GP about help.
MYTH 2 Exercise improves sleep
It does, but don’t do vigorous activity too close to bedtime. It will stimulate your brain and raise your body temperature.
FIX IT Take regular exercise earlier in the day. A brisk walk in bright daylight helps regulate your body’s internal body clock. Receptors in your eye respond to light and dark by adjusting the production of melatonin. Professor Kevin Morgan, of Loughborough University’s Clinical Sleep Research Centre, says, ‘Light reduces melatonin, which tells the body it’s daytime and helps mediate alertness. Darkness allows melatonin levels to rise, which tells the body it’s night-time, and promotes sleepiness.’ Keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night.
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