While the average recommendation is to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, it is almost impossible to find an adult over the age of 60 who achieves this recommendation. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 44% of older adults experience insomnia symptoms 3 or more nights per week. As we get older, our bodies make it harder to get a restful sleep. Whether it is frequent midnight bathroom trips or disrupted sleep rhythms, this much is true: older adults aren’t sleeping the way they should in order to stay healthy.
Here are 7 tips to get you sleeping sounder. Try them out individually, easing in to a new sleep routine gradually.
Get a Checkup
First and foremost, bring up your sleep issues and concerns during your annual medical checkup. Sometimes, sleep issues can be directly linked to medical diagnoses. For example, folks with insomnia symptoms might have GERD or acid reflux, Restless Leg Syndrome, or even beginning stages of dementia. In addition, prescription and over the counter medication can cause disruptions in your sleep cycle. Bring in a list of all of your current medications for your doctor to review. If your doctor doesn’t ask you about your sleep during your annual checkup, don’t leave the office until you start the conversation.
Earn Your Sleep
Tired bodies sleep better. To take steps to getting a better night’s sleep, you must get on your walking shoes and get to stepping. Older adults who exercise (any adults who exercise) are more likely to fall asleep quickly and for longer bouts throughout the night. Find an exercise that you love to do, and that suits your abilities and interests. You might try walking while praying through your community, taking a Zumba class, or practicing yoga, swimming or biking. Once you find your exercise of choice, work on doing it at least 4 times per week.
At least an hour before bed, start to literally power down to get ready for bed. Turn off your television, computer, tablet and cell phone. Stick to taking a relaxing bath, reading or listening to the radio instead. Your body will be more relaxed and ready to fall asleep if it is not overstimulated by all of the extra electronic screens.
Spritz Some Lavender
The scent of lavender has been shown to decrease stress and to encourage restful sleep. Consider getting some lavender essential oil from your local health foods shop to use throughout your nighttime routine. You can experiment with what works best for you, and don’t worry – lavender is one of the most safe essential oils out there. A few drops in a bath or a spritz on your sheets and pillow can bring on sound sleep, as well as adding the oil into your body lotion.
Get In A Routine
Humans are creatures of habit and bedtime routines are the perfect example. Your body and brain work together to get your system ready for relaxation and sleep. In order to help your body and mind know that sleep is near, stick to a nighttime routine. Perhaps yours is bath, reading, prayer and then sleep. Or it might be music, journaling, then sleep. Whatever it is, stick to it. After a few weeks of your new bedtime routine, you will find that you drift off to sleep quickly and fitfully.
Ditch the Nap
While an afternoon snooze is certainly refreshing every now and then, getting into a routine of dozing off for a nap daily can wreck your sleep patterns at night. If you are a big napper, evaluate your reasons for the nap. Determine if you are napping due to boredom or depression or true sleepiness, and work with your schedule to find another option to ditch the nap. You might find it helpful to get outdoors more, or to expose yourself to sunlight more in the daytime to help your body distinguish between daytime activities and nighttime ones. Or, you might need to plan activities that you enjoy during your typical nap time that will keep you awake and engaged. Once you eliminate a regular and long daily nap, you will likely find that you can sleep better, and longer, at nighttime.
Give It Up
Often, insomnia symptoms are brought on by an anxious brain that won’t stop worrying. Aren’t we lucky to know that we have a Father who never sleeps? Whenever I would have troubles sleeping, my grandma always told me that it didn’t do anyone any good if I was awake all night when God is already taking the night shift. Ease your anxiety by giving the Lord your troubles through prayer. Visualize resting in His hands and take heart that He will “take the night shift”.
Haley Burress is a freelance writer and contributor at Parenting.com and Educational Insights, to name a few. She lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her (very handsome) Principal husband, and her (very awesome) 4 year old son, Jackson.