Eight ways for older adults to enjoy better sleep

About half of older adults in Canada complain about sleep problems, according to the Canadian Sleep Society. They report having trouble falling asleep, waking more often in the night or getting fewer hours of sleep at night. Some say their sleep isn’t refreshing and they feel sleepy during the day.

Sleep problems can not only worsen your quality of life, they also can affect your health and ability to function well in daily living. According to Laval University researchers, people with insomnia showed impaired problem-solving and memory, compared to those who sleep soundly. Sleep disturbance is also a risk factor for falls, says the Canadian Sleep Society.

Age-related sleep changes

Age-related changes in the body’s biological clock mean that older adults generally experience earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times, more daytime naps, less sleep at night, lighter sleep and more awakenings during sleep, according to Montreal’s Centre for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine. For some retirees, these changes are normal and don’t negatively affect their quality of life.

Lavender spaBut for many others who suffer chronic sleep problems that disrupt their lives, there may be an underlying cause, such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Insomnia can also result from other medical or mental health problems, such as arthritic pain or depression. Consulting with your family doctor or a sleep specialist can help you to accurately identify the cause of the insomnia and treating the underlying condition often relieves the insomnia, says The New York Times.

While sleepless nights have many possible causes, practicing good “sleep hygiene” is a remedy that can help anyone who experiences insomnia to re-establish normal sleep patterns. Here are eight tips to help you sleep more soundly:

1) Be mentally and physically active, and eat well. Healthy living promotes good sleep.

2) Get ample exposure to sunlight, or other bright light, during the day.

3) Avoid or reduce the intake of stimulants, especially caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

4) Limit naps to 30 minutes a day, preferably in the early afternoon.

5) Don’t eat too much and minimize liquids within two to three hours of bedtime.

6) Reduce stressful experiences and worries at bedtime as much as possible.

7) Create an optimal environment for sleep in a quiet, dark room with a comfortable, ambient temperature.

8) Adopt a regular sleep-wake schedule and turn off electronic devices that disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle before you tuck in.