Got Sleep?

SPOKANE — Adequate sleep is essential to good health and quality of life. A good night’s sleep allows your body to rest and restore energy levels. And if you think you’re one of those people that can get through the day with only a few hours of rest, then you’re probably kidding yourself.

“We need the same amount of sleep when we get older as we need when we were younger,” Dr. Don Howard of the Sleep Institute of Spokane says. “There’s really no difference in how much sleep we need. If we needed eight hours of sleep when we were 40, we still need eight hours of sleep when we’re 80.”

Dr. Howard claims that, if you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep a night, you’re probably cheating yourself.

“That is considered the amount of sleep that is needed to make you feel restored in the daytime,” he says. “In other words, feel like not that you can get by but that you feel alert and you feel awake and you feel like your memory and concentration are good.

He even cites research that says denying your body the proper amount of sleep isn’t only unhealthy, it’s potentially deadly.

“There’s even some data that shows if you get less then five hours a night, your death rate is higher,” Dr. Howard says. “If you get more then ten hours of sleep at night your death rate is higher, so you need to be somewhere between five and eight hours.”

A large percentage of the patients Dr. Howard treats are seniors.

“When they retire, they have this new freedom and a lot of time,” he notes. “Unfortunately, that freedom means just sitting because they don’t really have hobbies or activities that they want to do or maybe their general health isn’t good enough that they can get out and do things.”

As a result, many retirees have an unbalanced sleeping schedule. Without a set daily routine, the amount of sleep you receive can get thrown out of whack.

“The best things for sleep in an older individual is, number one, have a set wake up time,” he stresses. “A set wake-up time is the most important thing they can do because the sun is what time of day it is. The bedtime’s important but not as important as the wake-up time.”

He also stresses the need to exercise every single day – “even if it’s just walking a little bit” – as well as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco before bed.