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Sleep is a basic necessity of life. It is as important to our health and well-being as air, food, and water. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed, alert, and ready to face daily challenges. When we don’t, every part of our lives can suffer. Our jobs, relationships, productivity, health and safety. Those around us are also put at risk. Definitely, excessive loss of sleep or sleep disorders take a serious toll on one’s productivity and quality of life.

According to the 2002 National Sleep Foundation (NSF), a recent poll on sleeping in America found that 74 percent of American adults are experiencing a sleeping problem a few nights a week or more; and that 39% get less than seven hours of sleep each weeknight. The statistics also show that more than one in three Americans or 37% of respondents are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their daily activities.

In the past century that was relatively less stressful compared with the average schedule of a worker, the number of hours of lost sleep grew steadily. Though our society has changed and evolved our lives into a more complex and rigorous task, our brains and bodies have not adjusted to those changes. Based on health and productivity statistics, sleep deprivation is affecting us all and we are paying the high price.

Though a lot of us have suffered from sleep deprivation, as every sleep researcher knows, the surest way to hear complaints about sleep is to ask the elderly. More than half of men and women over the age of 65 years complain of at least one sleep problem. Many older people experience insomnia and other sleep difficulties on a regular basis.

As we get older, our sleep patterns change. In general, older people sleep less and experience more fragmented sleep. They also spend less time in deep sleep and dream sleep than younger people. There are several factors that may contribute to these sleep disorders, namely:

· Poor Sleep Habits

· Medical Illness

· Medications

· Depression or Psychiatric Disorders

· Sleep Disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder

· Retirement and Boredom

Irregular sleep-wake patterns can affect an individual’s circadian rhythm and make it hard to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Other behavioral issues, such as consumption of alcohol before bedtime, increased wakeful time in bed, or daytime napping, can also affect a person’s ability to sleep. Certain chronic medical conditions are common in older people. Some of these conditions, including heart failure, arthritis, heartburn, menopause and Alzheimer’s disease, can affect sleep. These conditions can make it hard to fall sleep or may cause the person to awaken frequently. This will ultimately affect the duration and the quality of sleep of the elderly. Some medications may impair a person’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep and may even stimulate wakefulness at night.

Old age is characterized by many life-events, both positive and negative. Life changes such as the death of a loved one, moving from a family home, or physical limitations due to illness can cause significant stress and sleep difficulties. Retirement often leads to a lot of downtime with less daytime activity and can lead to an irregular sleep-wake schedule and chronic sleep problems.

Every person’s sleep needs are different. If one is getting less sleep than when they were younger, but still feel rested and energetic during the day, it might just be that the person need less sleep. However, if a person noticed that lack of sleep is affecting his or her daytime activities, a visit to the doctor is essential. There are steps that can take to improve a person’s sleep quality, whatever age we might be, but help is most especially needed among the elderly.