Have you ever noticed that some people nap more during the day as they age? It often becomes harder for them to stay awake during routine activities. There are many sleep related disturbances that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness at any age, such as:
- Difficulty Initiating Sleep
- Awake A Lot During Night
- Difficulty Returning to Sleep
- Pauses in Breathing
- Symptoms of Restless Leg
These sleep problems tend to increase with age but are not considered part of normal aging. However, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can be the first symptom on a slow but steady path of decline and suffering in the elderly. The symptom creates a feedback loop that tends to promote further decline because as a person increases napping during the day they incur the following setbacks:
- Naps that are longer than 10 – 20 minutes can create sleep inertia resulting in grogginess.
- Naps too late in the day or that are too long in duration can diminish sleep drive negatively affecting the depth and quality of night-time sleep.
- There is an increased health risk (i.e. mortality risk) from excessive daytime napping.
- When a person is napping they may get insufficient physical activity throughout the day. This in turn degrades sleep quality at night.
Thus when it comes to excessive napping, sleep that is normally restorative, may truly become the insidious “Brother of Death” described in Greek mythology. Excessive daytime sleepiness may also be accompanied by depression, attention and memory disorders, and an increase in nighttime falls.
Activity: The Mother of Life
To break the insidious cycle the human body needs vigorous activity that is challenging. Activity is the mother of life and is often the best antidote to sleepiness. We take movement for granted but in reality it is a magnificent gift and we are designed to use it as medicine and as a life-giving tonic!
We forget that movement is magical! Our abundance of technology can not replicate the grace, versatility and independence of human body movement. And it is all orchestrated by a fabulous network of trillions of tiny beings that we call cells. They are all yearning to get involved in your life, but they can’t unless you blast the trumpet of movement in multiple degrees of freedom.
The body yearns for that bygone era when it had to fight for survival or flee to the tops of the trees, when the entire body participated in the endeavor of life. Nowadays many of us make a living by twiddling our fingers on a keyboard, or moving our yappers non-stop. Some are lucky to ambulate throughout the day, but how many people do you see climbing trees for a living, or swinging from vines?
So next time you yearn for a nap ask yourself this, did you really get enough vigorous physical activity today? If the answer is yes then forty winks may be in order. But if not, challenge yourself to a duel instead! Get out there, get active, and bring your bodies 200+ degrees of freedom to life! You may even sleep better tonight.