30 tips for better sleep as you age

Why do we sleep less well as we age?

For all those who have sleep problems and wish to improve the situation, there are many books and articles on the subject. However, few are dedicated to a group that is often exposed to insomnia : the elderly.

Why do we sleep less well as we age?

Sleep patterns change dramatically with age. Older people have difficulty falling asleep, wake up more often and spend less time in deep sleep. In addition, at an advanced age, we are more susceptible to certain diseases, which play into fatigue . Medication use , obesity , and lack of exercise —all now more common among older people—can also affect the quality of nights.

Sleep better in old age

Using a sleeping pill , to fall asleep more easily or stay asleep longer, seems like a logical solution. However, for people over 65, this is strongly discouraged. International guidelines even completely ban sleeping pills beyond this age. So how can you sleep better?

30 tips for better sleep as you age

Ensure some regularity. Try to go to bed and get up at around the same time as much as possible, including on weekends. This helps develop a regular sleep-wake rhythm and improve sleep quality. But don’t overdo it: only go to bed when you feel sleepy, and not just because the clock says bedtime. If you want to sleep in after a long night, be sure not to get up more than an hour to an hour and a half later than usual.

Accept that your sleep is changing. This is perfectly normal and in no way indicates that you suffer from insomnia. Not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. So there is no need to worry about it. If you think about it too much, you risk making the situation worse. If necessary, share your concerns with your doctor instead during a future consultation.

Don’t go to bed too early…unless you like to get up at dawn! If you go to bed at 9 p.m. and need 8 hours of sleep a night, it’s perfectly normal to wake up around 5 a.m.

As you get older, it can sometimes be helpful to split your sleep time into two: a short nap in the afternoon and a longer period at night. Make sure the nap does not exceed 20 to 30 minutes. If you sleep longer, you risk falling into a deep sleep, which will make you sleepy when you wake up. Also, you might have a harder time falling asleep at night. If you take a nap, take it before 3 p.m. Otherwise, you won’t have enough time to replenish your need for sleep. If you often stay up at night or have trouble falling asleep, an afternoon nap may not be a good idea. Your turn to try.

Get into the habit of falling asleep in your bed and not, for example, on the sofa in front of the TV.

Be sure to get enough exercise and activity during the day so that you have accumulated enough physical fatigue by evening.

Get out as much as possible. Outdoor air and daylight help the internal clock to stay stable.

Make sure your dinner is neither too frugal nor too lavish. Both hunger and a full stomach can keep you from falling asleep. It is best not to eat 2-3 hours before going to bed. A light snack before bed can promote sleep.

Avoid drinking large amounts of water in the evening so that you don’t have to get up at night to pee.

Do not drink stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola, chocolate milk before going to bed. People sensitive to caffeine should not drink coffee after 3 p.m. Beyond this time, choose decaffeinated coffee or tea without caffeine.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. If a few glasses facilitate, it is true, falling asleep, they harm deep sleep and promote early awakenings. 

Try not to smoke before going to bed. And don’t smoke in bed. On average, smokers take twice as long to fall asleep as non-smokers and they sleep half an hour less.

Eat healthy. A balanced diet guarantees a better shape but also limits the risk of overweight and therefore sleep apnea .

Leave your worries out of the bedroom. If something bothers you, write it down in a small notebook that you leave in the living room. This can help calm the flow of your thoughts and help you fall asleep faster.

Try to relax before going to bed. Avoid excessive mental effort, especially do not do intense physical exercise. But adopt a ritual: prepare the breakfast table , listen to relaxing music, take a walk after the meal, drink a glass of milk…

Avoid bright light for two or three hours before bedtime. Bright light can make it harder to fall asleep. Dim lighting, on the contrary, stimulates the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

If you want to read in bed, use a soft lamp. The equivalent of 15-20 watts is sufficient for playback.

Avoid screens (smartphones, tablets, computers, television) in the bedroom just before going to bed.

A restless or snoring bed partner can ruin your sleep. This usually results in poor sleep. Earplugs are often the only possible help, even if it can be inconvenient.

If you yourself snore a lot and are often tired during the day, you may have sleep apnea. Discuss this with your attending physician.

Create a comfortable sleeping environment. Sleep in a calm, quiet and dark room. If necessary, wear earplugs in noisy environments.

Ventilate the room regularly and ensure that the temperature is around 16-18°C.

Make sure you have a good mattress and a comfortable pillow . It is difficult to fall asleep on a mattress that is too hard or too soft, or in a bed that is too small or too old. The thickness and firmness of the mattress depend on your weight and your morphology. The pillow should support the vertebrae in your neck well. Use sheets made from natural fabrics.

Practice breathing or relaxation exercises just before going to bed or in bed. A simple and effective exercise is to focus on your breathing. Lie down or sit comfortably. Close your eyes, inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Put your hands on your belly and feel your belly rise and fall. Inhale through your nose and feel your belly expand. Exhale slowly and feel your stomach flatten again.

Don’t stay awake in bed. If you feel like you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, don’t keep moping. Get up, read, listen to music , do a puzzle…until your eyes start to get heavy again.

If you regularly have to get up at night to pee, make sure you can easily reach the lamp from your bed. Or leave a pilot light on if needed. However, avoid bright lights. Also talk to your doctor. There are solutions to limit this phenomenon.

Put the alarm clock out of sight if the sound bothers you or if you tend to stare at it constantly.

Do not put the alarm clock in “snooze” mode, but get up as soon as it rings. Lying in bed may seem like a good way to rest, but it’s not recommended by sleep experts.

Light up the room as soon as you wake up in the morning. Open the curtains, turn on the lights… Lots of light in the morning contributes to the proper regulation of the biological clock .

Avoid sleeping pills. In adults under 65, the use of sleeping pills is only recommended in emergency situations, for example, when insomnia occurs after the death of a loved one. In particular for the elderly, sleeping pills carry many risks: risk of accidents, dependence, side effects and interaction with other medications. Sleeping pills should only be used for a short period, maximum two-three months, and no more than two or three times a week.

Source  : maasziekenhuispantein.nl , slapen.info

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