Age Related

AGE-RELATED SLEEP

BABIES AND INFANTS

Newborn babies may sleep on and off for as many as 16 hours a day. “Sleeping like a baby” is great, because the mothers and families of newborns often use some of that time to catch up themselves when they can!  It is a tiring stage in most families’  lives.

Snoring effects 18-20% of infants, which is a higher percentage than other childhood snoring – they seem to grow out of it gradually, and then only return to snoring as adults.

Other factors influencing how babies sleep include food additives (yes, they can be passed through breast milk), colic, jaundice, reflux and teething.

Refer Baby Sleep for more information

CHILDREN

Evidence is emerging from Sydney University that sleep loss causes permanent damage. Sleep is important for development, particularly in children – it’s when the brain and body grows.

The data coming through indicates that children with poor sleep and snoring will have a lower IQ, not just during the sleep deprivation period, but subsequent to that.

A study in America found that children who were identified by their parents as snorers at ages four and five had lower than average IQs. (Up to 10.3% of all children experience snoring occasionally and approximately 5.6% of children are habitual snorers.)

Growth spurts have also been known to happen after children with apnea have been treated.

Food Additives

Food additives are a huge issue with children and babies.  Food additives have been associated with many adverse conditions which effect sleep and general health.  The problems include hyperactivity, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, unexplained tiredness, irritability, growing pains, night walking, night terrors.  Babies can be affected through breast milk.

Please refer to the Food Additives section on the nutrition page for detail on this most important issue.

A special DVD is available which explains the behavioral effects of food additives.

TEENAGERS AND ADOLESCENTS

Growth hormones are secreted in teenagers in that deepest phase of sleep, slow-wave sleep. Humans have more of this sort of sleep as teenagers than at any other stage of their life. The importance of this deep sleep to teenagers is compounded by findings that teenagers have different sleep patterns:  they need to sleep for longer and they have a later sleep cycle (“sleep phase delay”) than either children or adults.

Yet they are forced to conform to the early-morning alarm clock.

The American National Sleep Foundation has reported that the Manatee County School Board, Florida, lobbied (and achieved) to put back the start time of the high school day to cater for the sleep phase delay. The Foundation also presented a symposium on that issue in Denver Colorado in June 2005.

Couple this information with the evidence from the University of Chicago’s Eve Van Cauter who says that people who aren’t getting enough sleep risk getting fat.  The leptin levels (a hormone that signals to the body that you’re full) found in men who were limited to four hours sleep per night were reduced (at a similar level to those of people who were underfed by 400 kilojoules a day for three days).  Another study indicated that sleep deprived people tended to crave chocolate and starchy and salty foods.

The teenagers and adolescent years are a period of body change and body consciousness. Not having enough sleep might encourage them to become out of balance with their eating habits.

Exams, assignments and other schoolwork; competitive sport; the sophistication of television, movies and music; socializing and peer pressure – they all add to the stress levels experienced by teenagers. It’s a very steep learning curve for them!

If your teenage kids want to sleep in on the weekend, be kind.

Refer Babies & Children for more information.

MENOPAUSE

More information on menopause is coming, but in the meantime my best advice is to obtain the book The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr Christiane Northrup MD.

And have you noticed that after menopause you may have become hotter than your partner in bed, when you were previously cooler?  Might be time to reverse your Compatibility Blanket?

MATURE AGE

The belief that we need less sleep as we age is apparently not true

As we age a number of factors come into play:

  • Our bodies produce less melatonin than when we were young.
  • Older people have more challenges with medical conditions such as restless legs syndrome, arthritis, heart and lung diseases and the effects of multiple medications. They can often deal with more sleep disturbances because of that.
  • Fragmented sleep will disturb sleep and make older people complain of tiredness, display bad temper and feel depressed. Non-REM sleep (the deeper levels of sleep with the slower theta and delta brain rhythms) can become an issue when you spend more time in bed, but less time sleeping.

Research in the United States has found increasing aerobic fitness can increase the proportion of the deeper sleep by about a third. Exercise, again, being a highly recommended remedy for sleeplessness.