If you experience insomnia, join the senior crowd. Researchers at the National Institute of Health say: “Prevalence of insomnia is higher in older individuals than in the younger population.” Seniors sleep less than younger folks.

The NIH researchers found seniors had 30% to 50% less sleep than a younger age group, but WebMD says older adults do not need less sleep as we age.

As I entered retirement, I had bouts of insomnia. Not only did I feel lousy during the day due to lack of sleep, I had concerns about my overall wellness.

Health sections of newspapers frequently address insomnia and its link to serious health issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease.  

Physicians can make recommendations about senior sleep problems, ranging from expensive prescription medicines to expensive bedding accessories. An inexpensive sleep remedy could be a book, especially an old book.

If your parents read you a storybook at bedtime, it may have established a reading-sleep pattern. As an older adult, you may be able to reestablish this pattern to relax. Relaxation reduces stress and can induce sleep. I am a believer in reading for sleep induction. 

While I buy new and used hardcover and paperback books for bedtime reading, older books may be a greater sleep inducer. When I say “older” books, I mean books from the 1950s and 1960s. Old magazines from these eras might also work.

Why are older books sleep inducers? They have an additional advantage over new books. Reading new books may induce sleep. Reading and smelling older books may be a greater sleep inducer.

“Old book smell” is a term used to describe the breakdown of chemicals used to produce the book and the gradual degradation of the book’s pages. These two processes produce a distinct odor. 

For me, “old book smell” has something of an intoxicating effect. It is a safer “intoxication” than I experienced when I took an evening cocktail to relax. For this reason, I keep old books on my bedside table.

As I read old books, I take off my glasses. This causes me to hold the old book close to my face. As I read, I am getting “intoxicated” by “old book smell.” Usually, within one hour I am asleep.

By my estimates, I am now sleeping an average of seven or more hours per night. I do not think I could have gotten this sleep improvement by reading from my mobile devices.

Prior to my practice of absorbing “old book smell,” I slept about four hours per night.

I credit “old book smell” and increased sleep with greater energy and creativity during the day. I also feel “old book smell” helps me address insomnia in a safe, cost-effective, and non-addictive manner.

Many other scents, such as lavender, may induce sleep. These can be expensive. To date, “old book smell” has not been bottled and commercialized by Madison Avenue.

If insomnia is a problem, talk with your physician. Consider your treatment options. Reading an old book might be a safe part of a successful health plan to address lack of sleep.

James Patterson is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and speaker.

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