By: Karen Weeks of Elder Wellness (elderwellness.net)
Most older adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night, yet a poll of 1,065 seniors between the ages 65 and 80 revealed that one in three individuals had problems getting adequate shuteye. While having to use the bathroom, anxiety, and stress were among the main reasons for difficulty sleeping, health and habits can also have an impact. If you fall into this category, here are some ways to improve your lifestyle so that you can get a better night’s sleep.
Get Regular Activity
Exercise has been proven to boost mood, strengthen circadian rhythms (aids daytime alertness), and yes, help promote good sleep. However, it’s important to note that studies have found that it’s regular, not random, physical activity that makes it easier to fall asleep—especially for those who are seriously sleep-deprived. Physical activity and sleep go hand in hand because performance will improve when the body and mind are rested.
Eat a Proper Diet
Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a nutritious diet undoubtedly aids sleep, but the specific foods you eat and beverages you drink can have an impact, too. For example, cherries contain melatonin, a chemical that helps control your internal clock. Your mother was on the right track when she gave you that glass of milk before bed because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that can ease symptoms of depression and aid in sleep. Carbs are great before sleep providing you’re not binging on a box of cookies. Opt for a fortified cereal comprised of complex (aka, good) carbs instead. Bananas, turkey, sweet potatoes, jasmine rice, and valerian tea are among other foods that can promote sleep. Avoid chicken, heavy spices, caffeinated beverages, dark chocolate, high-fat foods, and alcohol. Though a nightcap can make you sleepy at first, booze actually disrupts sleeping patterns, among other health hazards.
Have a Bedtime Ritual
Instituting a bedroom ritual (or several) can help you decompress before hitting the sheets. Some ideas include dimming the lights, powering down all electronics at least one hour before bedtime, turning the thermostat to 65 degrees (the ideal temp for sleeping), avoiding stressful tasks, and avoiding your bedroom until you’re actually ready to sleep. If you keep this spot for sleep, you won’t be associating it with reading, watching television, or any other activities.
Transform Your Bedroom Into a Peaceful Retreat
A peaceful bedroom is crucial for getting a good night’s rest. Start by decluttering the space so that it’s easier to declutter your mind. Paint the walls in a soothing shade such as white, beige, light green, or light blue, and add items such as throw pillows, an area rug, or a soft chair. Display peaceful artwork or photography that makes you happy or takes you back to a fond memory such as a vacation. Extras like blackout shades and a noise machine that plays waves or other ambient sounds can be a worthwhile investment. Don’t skimp out on quality bedding, pillows, and mattress as they can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. When buying a new mattress, look for models with memory foam, gel foam, or latex to provide optimal back and pressure-point support.
If you feel you’ve tried everything and still have problems sleeping, make an appointment to speak with your doctor. Come prepared by bringing a diary that contains your sleep-related activities and patterns, to include approximately how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up, and the number of hours of complete rest. Be sure to mention any current health conditions and medications so you can receive the proper diagnosis.
Photo Credit: Pixabay