If you’re tossing and turning at night, you’re not the only one. Over half of people 65 and older say they have trouble sleeping. Sleep issues vary; you may have trouble falling asleep, feel like your sleep is disrupted, or wake up too early in the morning. The relationship between quality of health and quality of sleep is complicated: lack of sleep can cause poor health, but health problems can also disrupt your sleep. Our body clocks do change as we get older, but quality sleep is essential at any age. Here are some reasons you might not be sleeping well and some tips to help you sleep better.
1. You’re not physically active
Moderate physical activity during the day can help you sleep at night. Try low-impact exercise like walking or chair yoga during the afternoon or early evening, but not too close to bedtime.
2. You’re not socially active
Research shows that seniors who participate in social activities, and who have a higher satisfaction with their social life, sleep better. Consider getting together with friends more, or enrolling in a class.
3. Your days lack routine
The freedom of retirement can be relaxing, but the absence of set daily activities like work could lead to disrupted sleep. Try to restrict daytime naps and get up at the same time each morning, no matter how much sleep you got that night. You can also set up a bedtime routine – maybe a warm bath or relaxing music – that will tell your mind and body that’s it’s time to sleep.
4. You don’t associate your bed with sleep
Don’t use your bed for reading or watching TV; train your mind and body to know that when you’re in bed, it’s time to sleep.
5. You’re worried about not sleeping
This can be a vicious cycle: anxiety about not sleeping can cause you to lose sleep. Instead of lying awake, try to go to bed when only you feel sleepy. And if you don’t fall asleep right away, give yourself permission to get out of bed and try again later. Take a bath, do a crossword puzzle, or read a book until you do get sleepy.
6. You’re eating the wrong things
Try to cut down on eating foods that contain sugar and fat, especially just before bed.
7. Other habits are disrupting your sleep
Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can all affect sleep. Try to cut down on alcohol and nicotine and don’t drink anything caffeinated after about 4 PM.
8. You have health problems that are affecting your sleep
Unfortunately, medical issues that commonly disrupt sleep are ones that many seniors have, such as acid reflux, bladder problems, chronic pain, obstructive sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. Check with your doctor if you think a medical condition might be affecting your sleep.
9. You’re taking certain medications
Check the side effects of any medication you take; sleep disruption is a common side effect. Common culprits are some medications to regulate heartbeat and thyroid medicine. Ask your doctor if your meds could be affecting your sleep.
10. You’ve gone through a major life change
Stress from a major event like retirement or bereavement can disrupt your sleep. Hopefully some of the techniques can help you sleep better as you get through a tough time.
If making behavioral changes like getting more exercise or adding a bedtime routine don’t help you sleep better, talk to your doctor. If you and your doctor rule out other factors like prescription drug side effects or a medical issue, you could discuss other options – either a sleep aid or a natural product like melatonin, valerian, chamomile, or kava. Remember that even herbal supplements can interact with your prescriptions so make sure to tell your doctor everything you’re taking. Sweet dreams!