Dear Dr. Roach: I’m a male in my early 80s in overall good health. I see health articles on the importance of getting a good six to eight hours of sleep per night. Is this continuous, nonstop sleep, or is it with interruptions? I find it necessary to urinate several times a night. What effect does this have?
On another note, if sleep interruptions do restrict the brain-maintenance functions of sleep, what are your thoughts on using disposable catheters during the sleeping hours?
Dear Anon: Although large trials do show that people who get seven or eight hours of sleep at night, on average, have better health, including less depression and fewer heart attacks than those who get less (or much more, curiously enough) — for any given individual, it isn’t always clear what the optimum amount is. Some people do very well on six hours; some people really don’t feel well unless they have eight or nine. Further, sleep needs change over a lifetime, with adolescents generally sleeping more and older adults sleeping less. I’ve found that worrying about not sleeping enough makes it harder for to sleep!
As far as interrupted sleep goes, it’s not generally a problem, as long as you have no trouble getting back to sleep.
Disposable catheters, however, I can’t recommend. Although some people need urinary catheters, they greatly increase the risk of infection.
My advice is to try to ensure a good night’s sleep by staying away from bright lights (including televisions, computers, tablets and phones) for at least an hour or two before bed; keep your sleeping area cool; avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening; and don’t worry if you sleep six or seven hours, as long as you feel well during the day.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth @med.cornell.edu.