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Healthy Aging: 5 Tips for Getting the Sleep You Need

5 Tips for Getting the Sleep You Need

Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated how vital to health a good night’s sleep is – at all ages but especially for seniors. Researchers at the University of California, Berkley have recently identified a link between short-term memory loss and inconsistent sleep among the aging population. And cardiac specialists have long known of the importance of sleep to the health of the cardiovascular system, which comes under more stress the older you get.

Unfortunately, even if you understand that a good night’s sleep is essential to healthy aging, it is not that simple to get one. The older you become, the more likely it is you will suffer from insomnia and low quality sleep. The body at 70 simply doesn’t spend as much time in deep sleep as it did at 30, 40, or even 50, no matter how long you lie in bed trying.

Still, there are steps you can take to get the sleep you need. Here are five:

  1. Check medicines: For the aging patient, no matter what the complaint, this should always be the first step toward a solution. Many seniors are on a cocktail of different drugs often prescribed by different doctors. Make sure you talk to your primary care physician about all of the medicines you’re on and whether restlessness is a side effect of any one of them or of an interaction. Further, many drugs that will cause sleepiness in younger patients–like OTC sleeping pills or antihistamines–can have the opposite effect as you age.
  2. Get on a sleep schedule: The body is programmed to lock into a schedule of sleeping and waking periods. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and you’ll soon find your body more quickly falling asleep and more fully waking up.
  3. Don’t take naps: It’s best to get the sleep you need in one long go at night. Doing so will give you a better chance of falling into the deep, restorative sleep you require to stay healthy.
  4. Adopt the twenty-minute rule: If you have tried and failed to fall asleep for 20 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity (no screen time) in a dimly lit room until you feel sleepy. Just lying in bed with your thoughts racing will ensure you’ll never drop off.
  5. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed: Cutting out caffeine after noon or so to cure insomnia is a well-known recommendation. But fewer people know that last cigarette before bed can keep you awake as much a cup of coffee would. And though alcohol may make you feel drowsy and even help you fall asleep initially, it also keeps you from a deep sleep and can often result in waking just a few hours after you go to bed.

Sleep is nature’s way of giving the body time to heal and regain energy, something that is more important as you age. Try these tips to make sure you are getting the rest you need, every night.