By Norma J. Goodwin, MD, Founder and President, Health Power
Because Health Power has heard from many individuals that they have trouble sleeping restfully at night, we offer the following tips:
1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Sticking to a regular bedtime and wake time schedule helps keep you “in sync” with your body’s regular 24-hour internal rhythm, which is called circadian rhythm.
2. Try not to nap too much during the day because if you do, you might be less sleepy at night.
3. Try to exercise at regular times each day. Exercising regularly will help you sleep more soundly. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
4. Try to get some natural light in the afternoon each day.
5. Be careful about what you eat. Don’t drink beverages with caffeine late in the day because caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake. Also, if you like a snack before bed, a warm beverage and a few crackers may help.
6. Don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes to help you sleep. Even small amounts of alcohol can make it harder to stay asleep, and smoking is dangerous for many reasons, including the hazard of falling asleep with a lit cigarette. Also, the nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant.
7. Create a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure there are locks on all doors and smoke alarms on each floor. A lamp that’s easy to turn on and a phone by your bed may be helpful. The room should be dark, well ventilated, and as quiet as possible.
8. Develop a bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to tell your body that it’s time to wind down. Some people watch the evening news, read a book, or soak in a warm bath.
9. Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light, give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you are still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you get sleepy, go back to bed.
10. Try not to worry about sleep. Some people find that playing mental games is helpful. For example, tell themselves it’s five minutes before they have to get up and they’re just trying to get a few extra winks.
If a person is so tired during the day that they can’t function normally and if this condition lasts for more than 2 to 3 weeks, they should see their doctor or a sleep disorders specialist.
Sleeping Better With Age
Seniors need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults, 7 to 9 hours a night.
Unfortunately, many older adults don’t get the sleep they need, because they often have more trouble falling asleep. Also, older people often sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night, which may be why they may nap more during the daytime. Nighttime sleep schedules may change with age too. Many older adults tend to get sleepier earlier in the evening and awaken earlier in the morning.
Many people believe that poor sleep is a normal part of aging, but it is not. Sleep patterns change as we age, but disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day are not part of normal aging. If a person has trouble sleeping, they should see their doctor or a sleep specialist.
Remember our motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!®