As we age, it’s normal to experience changes in our sleep habits and patterns. For example, as we get older, we tend to go to sleep earlier and find ourselves waking up before our alarm is set to go off. However, sleep disruptions, such as constantly waking up tired or unable to go to sleep and stay asleep, are not a normal part of aging. Although, many older adults do suffer from insomnia.
Sleep is vital for optimum health. Proper and adequate sleep is beneficial to your physical and emotional health. Older adults who don’t sleep well are more prone to experience depression, memory problems, and even falls. They also increase their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Older adults need the same amount of sleep as all adults – seven to nine hours each night. If you have difficulty sleeping or just can’t get a good night’s rest, you’re in luck. There are lots of things you can do to improve your sleep. Here are some of the most helpful tips for better sleep.
Fall Asleep With Ease
Don’t Watch the Clock. We’ve all been there… It’s the middle of the night, and the clock has become our enemy. We can’t stop watching as the minutes tick by. You think, “if I fall asleep now, I can still get five good hours of sleep.” Another hour goes by. Now you can get four hours, three hours, and so on until it’s time to get up and you’re absolutely exhausted. Your first mistake was watching the clock. This puts stress and pressure on you. You need to feel relaxed to fall asleep. If you can, cover the clock up so you aren’t tempted to watch it as you try to fall asleep.
Stick to a schedule. You should aim to go to sleep and get up at the same time each day. This helps to get your body conditioned to a schedule. Try not to alter it too much on the weekends.
No late naps. Avoid taking naps later in the day or the evening. Yes, you may have had a hard long day, but try to resist closing your eyes. This can throw your sleep schedule off and keep you awake at night.
Don’t eat right before you go to sleep. Eating a large meal too close to bedtime can keep you awake or cause you to not sleep well due to broken sleep. Your body needs time to start the digestion process before going into a slumber. When you’re asleep, your metabolism slows down, so the last thing you want is to consume a bunch of calories. Also, eating late at night can lead to heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion, which can interrupt your sleep.
Don’t use electronics in the bedroom. This is one of the big tips for better sleep. Using your cellphone, computer, or even just watching TV in the bedroom can throw your sleep pattern off. This is because the light from your devices restrains your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for your sleep-wake cycle. If your melatonin production is suppressed, your body doesn’t acknowledge it is time for bed, often making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol. Neither caffeine nor alcohol does your body any good at night. You may be able to fall asleep, but you will not experience a good night’s rest.
Exercise (but not within three hours of bed). Research has found regular exercise improves sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decreasing the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night. But again, don’t do it close to bedtime. Your endorphin levels need time to decrease, and your brain needs time to wind down.
Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
Falling asleep and staying asleep shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you have difficulty sleeping, don’t stress. The more anxious you get, the more challenging time you will have. Use your bedroom for only sleeping and get it to a comfortable temperature. Then just relax. If you try the tips for better sleep above and still find yourself having difficulty sleeping, contact your provider. There may be an underlying cause preventing you from sleeping. Your doctor will be able to get to the root cause or help you find a suitable treatment so you can get on track and catch some zzzs.