Sleeping and Aging

senior woman sleeping on bed

When we get older, a number of changes happen to our body, including our sleeping pattern. As we age, many people tend to notice increased difficulty in falling asleep than in their younger years. Though many believe that older folks don’t require as much sleep, research suggests that consistent sleep throughout all of adulthood, including the later years, is beneficial. Doctors believe that as we age, our bodies secrete less Melatonin, a hormone which makes us sleepy. Additionally, as we age, there may be other health issues which cause us to be less able to sleep.

What Can I do About it?

1. Exercise: Lack of exercise can lead to excess energy which keeps you up. Try regular cardio exercise, but do it at least 3 hours before bed time.

2. Get Sunlight: Sometimes your body’s internal clock can get out of sync without the presence of sunlight. Try to get outside for two hours of the day.

3. Limit the Caffeine: Different amounts of caffeine work for different body types, so try experimenting with the amount and timing of your caffeine intake, with a focus on reducing caffeine in the afternoon and evenings.

4. Limit the Alcohol and Nicotine: Nicotine is a stimulant which can contribute to your inability to sleep. Alcohol can reduce the time it takes for you to get to sleep, but the quality of the sleep is sacrificed.

5. Keep a Sleep Journal: Record your daily activities, and how well you sleep each night. This will let you see what you’re doing during the day which may be affecting your sleeping.

6. Make Sure You Are Comfortable: Is your mattress too hard? Too soft? Is your pillow firm enough? Make sure that your bed is suited to your liking. Additionally, make sure that the bedroom is sufficiently dark for you to get a good night’s rest.

7. Establish a Sleep Routine: If you don’t already have a set sleep routine, try going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. It will provide consistency for your body, thus making it easier to sleep.

8. Use the Bed Only for Sleeping: Reading, playing on your ipad, or watching TV from the bed may mean that we associate the bed with things other than sleep. Try using your bed for the sole purpose of sleeping. This will encourage your body to relax and realize it’s time for bed.

9. Relax before bed: The last few hours before bedtime, ensure your activities are low-stress and relaxing. Avoid high stress movies or rigorous exercise.

10. Try Melatonin: Melatonin can be bought over the counter. Try small doses an hour before going to bed, and see how it helps your sleep.
These tactics are meant for mild sleep difficulties associated with aging. Though increased difficulty falling asleep is normal in older age, if you are having sleep problems that are causing you to feel too tired to complete your usual day, speak to your doctor. Sleep disorders like insomnia can be managed with medication.

The majority of us can get to sleep easier by managing our daily activities and environment. Try them out! You might be surprised to find that the perfect combination of relaxing activities or exercise during the day might be the key to a good night’s rest. Happy Sleeping!