You may not be getting enough sleep
If you've started waking up with the birds -- or even before the birds -- you may not be getting enough sleep.
With age, changes in your sleep pattern, health and lifestyle may contribute to sleep difficulties, such as extra-early rising. Even so, you still require about the same amount of sleep as you did in the past. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person; between seven and eight hours per night is average.
Identifying and treating the causes of sleepless or restless nights may help you get the amount and quality of sleep that you need. The September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists three common changes during aging that can affect sleep:
* Normal changes in sleep patterns: As you age, you spend more time in lighter sleep. The clock in your brain speeds up, creating the desire to go to bed earlier, so you wake up earlier, too. Try to resist the urge to retire early. Spending time outdoors in the evening can help you stay alert longer.
* Changes in activity: Physical or social activity promotes a good night's sleep. Being less active can affect sleep.
* Changes in health: Chronic pain, depression, stress, hot flashes or the need to urinate frequently can disrupt sleep. So can some medications, nicotine and alcohol.
In some cases, simple lifestyle changes may result in better sleep. Limit time in bed to when you're sleeping. Avoid naps or limit them to no longer than 30 minutes. Exercise, but not too close to bedtime. Limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
If you feel rested and alert during the day, you're probably getting enough sleep. If you're fatigued or it's hard to concentrate, take action to reclaim a good night's sleep. If simple changes don't help, ask your doctor for advice.