More than half of American adults 50-years or older complain that good sleep is hard to come by. This is an alarming statistic because sleep is essential to positive physical and mental well-being. There are several reasons why a good night's sleep is more difficult after age 50. Some of these reasons include:
- Hormonal fluctuations.
- Uncomfortable medical conditions.
- Medication side effects.
- Retirement, which results in less daytime activity.
- Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
There are several things that can help seniors get a good night's sleep, which will also ensure they are healthier in body, mind, and spirit. Keep in mind that the average senior citizen needs about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.
Identify the Cause: If possible, identify the cause. Are you physically uncomfortable? What wakes you up? Have you been through a major life change such as retirement, a move, or the death of a loved one? Are you eating well and exercising regularly? The answers to these questions may help you identify why you aren't sleeping, which will help you determine the best course of action.
Exercise Every Day: The body can have a hard time sleeping if it hasn't been active enough. It becomes restless, even if our minds seem to be content sitting down and watching TV all day. If you are having a harder time sleeping, and don't exercise regularly, try to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. Take a walk, join a dance class or water aerobics group, or start taking Yoga or Tai Chi. These activities can help to tire you out enough that sleep will be harder to avoid.
Remain Active: Your brain needs exercise just as much as your body. Make sure you aren't checking out of the activities and social events you used to enjoy. Get out in your community, socialize, volunteer, play games or read to an elementary school student. These types of activities keep your brain active, which means it needs sleep to recharge itself.
Avoid Stimulants: Try to wean yourself off caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and sugar in the later afternoon and evening hours. These are all stimulants. There is a chance that your body has become more sensitive to external stimulants, which can result in trouble sleeping. Ideally, you should only have one or two cups of coffee in the morning, and then drink decaffeinated beverages (water, please!) through the rest of the day.
Allow Yourself to Wind Down: Let yourself enjoy a period of 30-minutes to an hour to simply wind down before you go to bed. Back-lit electronics, such as TVs, tablets, and computer screens actually stimulate your brain. It is best to sit quietly and listen to music, or read a book or magazine, in order to let your brain wind down and your body relax.
If you have tried all of these techniques to no avail, speak with a healthcare professional. Sleep is a requirement for a healthy life so do all you can to make sure you have sweet dreams every night.