Not Getting Enough Sleep?
Nothing beats the feeling of your head sinking into a soft pillow as you drift off into dreamland. And there isn’t much worse than tossing and turning all night trying to fall asleep. As we age, falling asleep and staying asleep can start to become an even bigger challenge.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older adults experience insomnia at least a few times a week. Why? Well, the older we get, the more likely we are to experience conditions such as arthritis and sleep apnea, which can keep you from getting the shut-eye you need. Older adults are more likely to take medications that could affect their sleep, too.
Changes to how we sleep also occur as we age. Older adults tend to get less REM sleep than younger adults. REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep. The older we get the more likely we are to spend more time in other, lighter stages of the sleep cycle, which also means you may tend to wake up more often in the middle of the night.
Although we face more obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep as we get older, unfortunately, our sleep needs don’t change. All adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep a day, no matter how old you are. Getting enough sleep has been show to improve your mood, your memory and ability to think clearly. In addition, it helps your skin bounce back from exposure to the sun. It also decreases your risk for diabetes, obesity and depression. Sleep also helps your heart. According to the American Heart Association, getting fewer than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night increases the stress hormones and inflammation in your body, which puts you more at risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
So what can you do to get better sleep? Here are some tips to help:
Skip the nap
Naps can be amazing. But they can also keep you from sleeping at night. If you’re a napper who is not sleeping well at night, it’s time to skip your afternoon nap.
Stay busy during the day
If you are sitting around all day, you may not be burning enough energy to get sleepy at night. This can especially be a problem if you’ve recently retired and aren’t used to being home more. Try to stay as active as you can during the day. Take walks, garden, visit with friends or even log in some volunteer hours.
Unwind before bed
Is there something you do that always makes you sleepy, like reading or doing a crossword puzzle. As your evening winds down, make sure to take part in activities that make you feel relaxed. This will prime you for sleep. Note: Experts say it’s best to avoid screen time (TV, phone, tablet or computer) in the hour before you want to fall asleep. The light from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.
Create a bedtime routine
Experts say one of the best things you can do to ward off insomnia is go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Start a short routine that ends with you climbing into bed the same time every day. Maybe take a warm bath, take any medicine you need to take before bed, play some light music and read a little in bed. Note: Also make sure to make your bedroom a respite for sleep. If you are tossing and turning, experts say you should get up and try to sleep again in 20 minutes.
Watch what you drink
It’s a bad idea to drink alcohol or caffeine before bed. Drinking alcohol may make you sleepy, but you will wake up more often in the middle of the night and actually get fewer hours of sleep. Caffeine on the other hand can keep you awake. It’s also a good idea to drink fewer liquids total as the night wears on. The more you drink before bed, the more times you will wake up to use the bathroom and the more fragmented your sleep will be.
Talk to your doctor
If you aren’t getting the sleep you want, make sure to talk to your doctor. It could be an underlying health condition or an issue with your medication that is causing you problems. Also, your doctor will be able to tell you if a supplement like melatonin could help. Regardless, talk to your doctor first before you take any kind of sleeping aid.
Filed under: Medicare