Sleep like a baby when you’re all grown up
Sleep is so important for good health, but it can be increasingly difficult to get a good night’s sleep as we age. According to Dr. Julie Carrier, a scientist with the Centre for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine, sleep patterns change as we get older. We tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, take more naps during the day, sleep less and more lightly at night, and wake up more frequently.
Age-related snoring can be a barrier to restful sleep too. As a result it can be a struggle to feel truly rested because sleeping through the night seems to be a thing of the past once you reach age 50 or so.
Sleep is the body’s time to repair cellular damage and rejuvenate itself. According to HelpGuide.org, it’s particularly important for older adults to get a good night’s rest because sleep helps improve concentration and memory function, and refreshes your immune system which can help prevent disease. Requirements vary from person to person, but most healthy adults should try to get between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep per night.1
It may not be possible to turn back the clock and sleep like we did when we were teenagers, but try these tips from HelpGuide.org if you’re craving a good night’s sleep:
9 tips for sounder sleep
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. These are all stimulants and they can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
- Stay active and engaged. Getting out and having fun with family and friends will help make your body and mind ready for rest when night falls. Volunteering is also a great way to stay active in your community. Visit MyForesters.com for opportunities to get involved right in your own neighborhood.
- Clear your mind. Sometimes problems and worries can keep us up at night. Find someone you can talk to about things that are bothering you so you can put your mind – and body – to rest at night. It can also be helpful to write down your worries before bed and tell yourself that you’re going to put them safely away for the night and do something about them tomorrow instead.
- Put away the electronics. Don’t read from a backlit device like an iPad. If you use a portable reader, choose one that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source like a bedside lamp.
- Listen to your body. Go to bed when you feel tired, even if it’s earlier than it used to be. Your body knows what it needs, so pay attention to it.
- Make the most of your naps. Don’t nap too late in the day, and try to keep them fairly short. Limiting naps to 15-45 minutes will help you feel alert and reduce the grogginess you can feel when you nap for longer than that.
- Watch what you eat. Don’t have a heavy meal or spicy food right before bedtime. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed, and have a light snack like crackers or cereal with milk to keep you from waking up feeling hungry in the night.
- Get some exercise. Exercise releases chemicals in your body that help promote a more restful sleep. It also helps boost your mood and reduce stress so those worries that can sometimes keep you awake at night might not seem quite as big.
- Try to relax. Listen to calming music, read a book, or ask your partner to give you a gentle massage to help you sink into sleep.
If you find yourself lying in bed awake at night, try not to let it stress you out. Remind yourself that even though you’re not sleeping, you’re still giving your body much needed rest and relaxation that will help rejuvenate it.
But remember that because sleep is so important, if you’re still struggling after trying some of these tips, it’s worth a visit to the doctor to rule out a sleep disorder, medication side effects or interactions, or a medical condition or illness that may be causing the problem.
For more information on sleep and aging visit Senior Health.
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