Written by: Jason Lewis
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to feel your best and maintain overall health, especially for older adults. Some people assume that fatigue and insomnia are just a natural part of getting older, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
When you can determine why you’re having a hard time sleeping, you can address those issues and start getting the sleep you need. Here are some tips to get started:
Focus on Comfort First
It may sound obvious to say that comfort is key to a good night’s sleep, but many people don’t realize that their changing physical needs may be keeping them from sleeping well. If you’re sleeping on an old mattress, or if you have concerns like back pain, you might need a new mattress.
When you start shopping for a new mattress, be sure to consider your sleeping style, along with medical concerns. Are you a side sleeper? A hot sleeper? These factors are important, and being aware of them makes it easier to find the best mattress for your needs.
Your mattress is the foundation for sleeping well, but other factors in your sleeping environment play a key role in comfort too. Take a look at your surroundings and see if anything may be keeping you up. Are you too hot or too cold at night? Many people sleep better when the temperature is cooler, but the most important thing is to be comfortable. Are you waking up early in the morning? You may need light-blocking curtains to keep your room darker. It may also help to darken lights in the evening to signal to your body that it’s time for sleep.
Develop Better Bedtime Habits
While making your environment cozy and comfy, work on preparing your body and mind for sleep too. According to Forbes, it’s important for older adults to set a regular sleep schedule that you stick to consistently, even on the weekends. You should also develop a regular bedtime routine that is focused on relaxation. You may enjoy sipping a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, or using relaxation techniques. Do things that help you unwind, and when you start associating these habits with sleep, the routine will help induce sleep.
Beware of Food and Drink
Many people are able to get better sleep by becoming more aware of what they eat and drink, especially close to bedtime. Health Magazine recommends the best foods to eat before bedtime, along with the worst ones that you want to avoid. Some of the best foods include cherries, bananas, turkey, milk, and any food with complex carbs, such as sweet potatoes. Cherries have melatonin, which is the natural chemical our bodies produce to regulate sleep. Bananas have magnesium and potassium, which helps muscles relax.
You’re better off avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat or protein close to bedtime, such as burgers or chicken. Drinking alcohol or caffeine too close to bedtime can keep you up too. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine, especially dark chocolate.
Stay Active During the Day
One of the healthiest ways to sleep better is to make sure you’re staying physically active. According to CNN, all it takes are a few hours of moderate exercise per week to see a dramatic difference in how well you sleep. Even better, physical fitness can improve other health problems that interfere with sleep, such as sleep apnea and depression. Start with low-impact workouts that are safe for seniors, like walking or swimming.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
Even with these changes, it’s important to rule out any underlying health conditions. If you have any concerning symptoms along with trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. It may even be possible that medications you take are part of the problem.
Whether you have pain, health concerns, anxiety, or habits that aren’t sleep-friendly, the things that keep you up at night may be different now than when you were younger. Our bodies are constantly changing, which means we sometimes have to make changes of our own. Make these necessary changes today to start sleeping better tonight.
Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.