According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, seniors experience a harder time getting the seven or eight hours of sleep each night needed to feel rested and refreshed in the morning. The common causes of sleep problems among the elderly include:
- Age-associated changes in the sleep-wake cycle.
- Age-associated reduction in the body’s production of “sleep hormones,” such as melatonin.
- Smoking and increased consumption of alcohol or caffeine.
- Pain or illness.
- Taking certain medications.
- Disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
- Lack of exercise
Getting Better Sleep As You Age
In order to get a better night’s sleep, consider the following expert tips:
- Listen to your body and adjust your sleep pattern, if necessary. You may find that your body is ready to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
- Often times sleep problems are treatable. Find out what’s causing your insomnia, be it stress, anxiety, depression or something else and then talk to your doctor about the best treatment.
- By improving your daytime habits, you will improve your sleep habits. Continue exercising daily, stay positive, get some sunshine, and limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Set yourself up for a better nighttime schedule. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Don’t read from a backlit device such as an iPad or reading tablet. Move clocks out of view and dedicate your bedroom only for sleeping.
- Watch what you eat and stay active. Avoid large or spicy meals before bedtime and try to eat at least three hours before you go to sleep.
- Don’t stress. I know, easier said than done, but make relaxation your goal, not sleep. Practice slow, steady breathing techniques and clear your mind; your body will naturally drift off to sleep.
- Talk to your doctor. You may be on a medication that contains caffeine or a combination of pills that cause sleeplessness. You won’t know until you ask!