As you’ve aged, chances are you aren’t sleeping like you did as a teenager. In fact, you might not be getting even close to the expert-recommended 7 to 9 hours per night. If a “good night’s rest” is a distant memory, we’ve got some tips and tricks that can be helpful in getting you the sleep you need.
Sleep and Aging
A change in sleep patterns is a normal part of aging, including getting tired earlier, waking up earlier, and not experiencing an extremely deep sleep. However, a disturbed sleep-wake schedule, such as taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up frequently in the night, waking up exhausted, and feeling tired during the day, doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of your aging journey. Often, these sleep disturbances can be caused by medical conditions, medication side-effects, stress, decreased physical activity, and poor sleep habits.
Why does getting solid shut-eye matter? A good night’s sleep can help with concentration, memory, mood, and overall wellness. With that in mind, here are some healthy bedtime habits that can help improve both the quality of your sleep and the quality of your waking hours:
Survey Your Environment
According to sleep researchers, an ideal environment for sleeping better is a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom. If your room leaves you hot and sweaty, try lowering the thermostat by a degree or two, if your room is bathed in light all night, an eye mask or blackout curtains can help, and if you’re constantly being woken by startling noises, using a white noise machine or earplugs to dull unexpected sounds. As well, a good sleep can be enhanced by the comfort of your mattress, the softness and breathability of your sheets, and the support of your pillow.
Creating a consistent evening routine that has you going to bed and rising at the same time may help regulate your body rhythms. As well, incorporating relaxing, soothing bedtime rituals, such as meditative breathing techniques, practicing mindfulness by journaling, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath, can help quiet your mind and ready you for sleep.
Weigh Your Diet
What and when you eat and drink can affect your sleep patterns. Eating your dinner at least 3 hours before you plan to go to sleep and limiting your liquid consumption as the night unfolds (read: fewer trips to the bathroom) can help improve your sleep. As well, filling your plate with nutrient-rich foods (check out the nutritionally balanced, senior-designed Heart to Home Meals here!), avoiding spicy foods that may cause stomach upset, steering clear of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, and passing on alcohol in the hours before bedtime can all help in setting you up for sleep time success.
Get A Move On
Being active can help by releasing the chemicals in your body that facilitate a restful sleep. Whether you head outdoors for a fresh air walk or choose to do some movement in your home, it’s important to remember that you’ll want to do that activity at least 3 hours before going to bed, giving your core temperature time to lower and your body to cool down.
Keep Your Bed For Sleeping
Use your bedroom only as a sleep zone, which means no working, eating, watching TV, or using your computer on or in your bed – in your mind, reserving your bedroom as a place of rest can be helpful in making it so. As well, once you’ve gone to bed, if you find that after 20 minutes of trying you still can’t fall asleep, leave the room, do a quiet, non-stimulating activity such as reading, and only return when you are sleepy.
Consult Your Doctor
If you have a health condition such as severe arthritis, sleep apnea, or chronic pain, getting treated may help you sleep better. It’s also important to remember that certain medications can interfere with your sleep, so be sure to ask your doctor about side-effects of anything you might be taking.
As you can see, with a few small adjustments to your lifestyle and sleep environment, enjoying better quality sleep isn’t just a dream…it can be your reality.
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