Senior Center of Greater Richmond

Creating Opportunities for Healthy Aging Through Social Engagement

Senior Sleep: Get a Consistent Good Night’s Rest

There are several factors that contribute to losing sleep as you get older. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to fall asleep. With pain and sickness come medicines, and some medicines can keep you awake. Lack of exercise, raised stress levels, or consumption of alcohol before bed can be a cause of insomnia and sleep problems. Here are some tips for getting a good night's rest without counting sheep:

Get On a Schedule

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends or on vacation.
  • Adjust your bedtime to go to sleep whenever you feel like going to bed, even if that means going to bed earlier
  • If you're running low on energy during the day, fitting a nap into your routine might give you the boost you need. Be sure to keep them short (5-45 minutes), early in the afternoon, and find a comfortable space, preferably with limited light and reduced noise

Find Your Groove

Once you've figured out a better sleep schedule, develop a bedtime routine that is conducive to a relaxing evening before going to sleep.

  • Read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing, or pick some of your favorite yoga positions to stretch your muscles
  • Avoid watching TV, using your computer, cell phone, or other electronic device in your bedroom. The light from these devices can be over stimulating and make it difficult to fall asleep, and viewing something scary or unsettling can produce bad thoughts that prevent you from drifting peacefully to sleep
  • Write down your worries from the day and forget about them before bed to relieve stress

Exercise

Exercise releases chemicals in your body that promote more restful sleep. Aerobic exercise, better known as cardio, is the most beneficial for a restful night's sleep.

  • Exercise at a regular time each day
  • Don't exercise within three hours of your bedtime
  • Find an exercise that is enjoyable and favorable for your physical condition

Some activities to consider:

  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Dance
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Walk your dog

Eating

  • Avoid big meals or spicy foods just before bedtime
  • Don't drink caffeine late in the day
  • Consuming alcohol may put you to sleep, but when it wears off, chances are good that you won't stay asleep
  • If you are still hungry before bed, satisfy your hunger with a light snack like crackers or yogurt
  • Eat well during the day

Make Your Bedroom a Sleeping Oasis

  • Use low lighting in the evenings to help regulate your body and tell your brain to go into sleep mode
  • Install a ceiling fan. Cool temperatures, typically between 60-67 degrees, makes for the best sleep. The purr of the fan can double as a consistent backdrop throughout the night
  • Paint your room with soothing colors
  • Keep your room clean and uncluttered. Make your bed every morning
  • Invest in a good mattress that is comfortable to you
  • Remove tech, including TVs, laptops, iPads, etc. These devices keep your mind active when you're trying to settle down for the night and may make it difficult to get to sleep. Keep a good book by your bed, instead.
  • Reduce noises that can interrupt sleep
  • Surround yourself with comforting scents like lavender

With the cards stacked against you when it comes to aging and adequate sleep, you'll want to do everything you can to even out the playing field and give yourself a chance for a good, restful sleep each night.

Submitted by Jim Vogel Contact Jim at: jimatelderaction [dot] org

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