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As we grow older, our sleep needs don’t really change. Seniors need seven to nine hours of rest every night just like their younger counterparts. However, changes in the body sometimes make it difficult for older adults to get the sleep they need.
Many people suffer from age-related insomnia where they either have extreme difficulty falling asleep or they wake up early and cannot get back to sleep. The reason behind this is a shift in the circadian rhythm that happens as we age. People over 60 may become sleepy earlier in the evening and their bodies prompt them to wake up earlier in the morning. However, if you don’t adjust your sleeping habits to accommodate this shift, it can lead to sleep disturbances that disrupt proper rest. Furthermore, some seniors have medical conditions or medications that impact their sleep quality.
To adjust to your changing body and its particular needs, use these helpful sleep hacks and advice so you don’t miss out on the healthy rest you need.
Should You Replace Your Mattress?
If your body is changing, you may need a new mattress that compliments it. While a good mattress lasts nine to 10 years, if you aren’t sleeping well it may need to be replaced. In fact, a study conducted at Oklahoma State University found that the majority of those surveyed who updated their mattress after five years sleep significantly better while experiencing less back pain. The best mattresses for seniors have sufficient support to maintain neutral spine alignment, enough contouring to relieve pressure points (think heels, hips, shoulders), and some means for regulating body temperature.
Adjusting Diet and Exercise
A healthy diet and regular exercise should both be essential parts to your daily routine by this time in your life. Not only do these healthy habits reduce your chances of injury and disease, but they can also be beneficial when it comes to combating insomnia. When you exercise during the day, you burn enough energy to enable your body to feel tired at night, thus making it easier to fall asleep. Make sure to relegate your workouts to the morning or no later than four hours before your bedtime to make sure your body isn’t all riled up and energized when you want to be winding down.
What you eat can affect your sleep, as well. If you eat rich, spicy, or heavy foods before bed, you are more likely to stay up because of nighttime indigestion. In addition, drinks containing alcohol and caffeine can impair sleep. On the other hand, you can incorporate certain food and drinks into your diet that promote healthy rest:
- Chamomile tea
- Tart cherry juice
- Passionflower tea
- White rice
- Cottage cheese
Eliminate Blue Light Before Bed
If you have a smartphone, tablet or other electronics that emit blue LED light, be sure to turn them off and put them away at least an hour before bed. This artificial light suppresses the production of melatonin– a chemical that tells the body it is time to rest– making it more difficult to fall asleep. Turn off the electronics, lay down to relax and spend the hour before bed doing a calming activity such as working on a puzzle or reading a book.
When to See Your Doctor
If small changes in your sleep habits don’t help, it may be time to talk to your doctor if regularly have trouble sleeping or feel sluggish in the morning. Your troubles could be the result of an underlying physical or psychological health problem. If you have children or loved ones who are long distance, ask your doctor’s office if it’s OK to bring along your senior-friendly tablet into the appointment. Having a second party there via video calling ensures that your family is up-to-date on your particular medical issues so they are not left in the dark.
As we age, the changes in our bodies can make it more difficult to sleep. If you wake up with aches and pains, a new mattress may be just what you need. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine and avoid foods and drinks that make it difficult to sleep. Turn off your blue light emitting electronics before bed and instead do something that helps your body wind down. Finally, if these changes don’t help with your sleep disturbances, talk to a doctor about your insomnia.