How Retirees And Seniors Can Avoid Sleep Issues
A good night’s sleep may feel great, but it’s good medicine, as well. Especially as we age. Getting enough sleep is so important, in fact, that a blog post from the Mayo Clinic calls sleep one of the “12 habits of highly healthy people.” The [benefits of a good night’s sleep (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/tips-for-better-sleep/bgp-20094773)], the post also states, include weight control, disease prevention and stress management. Unfortunately, nearly 35 percent of adults do not get enough sleep, putting themselves at risk for lifelong health problems, increased mortality rates and a “reduced quality of life.”
How Much Is Enough?
How much sleep do we really need each night to reap the benefits and reduce our risks? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, adults — including the elderly — should try to get at least [seven to eight hours (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch)] of sleep each night. If you’re not getting that much sleep, or if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, below are a few tips that might help you get the good night’s sleep you need:
• Stick to a schedule — Whether you have a job you need to get up for each morning or whether you’re retired and at your leisure, try to go to bed around the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. The regular schedule will help you get to sleep more easily by aligning your inner clock and signaling your body when it’s time to rest.
• Turn off electronic devices — including the computer, tablet, smartphone and TV. The bright lights coming from the screens of many modern devices can tell your brain it’s time to wake. This can make it hard to sleep for several hours after you have finally gone to bed. Instead of “screen time” in the hour before bedtime, try meditating, taking a long hot bath, reading a book (but not on your e-reader!), or listening to soft, relaxing music.
• Watch what you eat — Especially in the hours just before bedtime. Heavy meals can make it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep. Caffeinated foods are both physically and mentally stimulating, as well, and can also make sleep difficult. Food and drinks that contain caffeine should be limited to the morning or, at the very least, early afternoon. If you like a hot drink with your dinner or bedtime snack, choose a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea like peppermint or chamomile.
• Watch what you drink — It might seem like common sense to have an alcoholic drink at bedtime if you’re struggling to sleep. After all, alcohol has a relaxing and sedating effect. Yet, unfortunately, while alcohol may help you nod off initially, it can have a tendency to make you more wakeful a few hours into the night.
• Consider a new mattress — No matter how well you prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep, if your mattress is uncomfortable, it could contribute to wakefulness. A mattress that’s too soft can aggravate back problems, while a mattress that’s too hard can be uncomfortable on shoulders, elbows and hips, especially for those with arthritis. The Better Sleep Council recommends [replacing your mattress every seven years (http://bettersleep.org/mattresses-and-more/caring-for-a-mattress/replacing-a-mattress)], or even earlier if you wake and still feel tired, or are experiencing more aches and pains than usual.
• Block distractions — Preparing your bedroom ahead of time can help you sleep once you head to bed. A sound machine can be effective. The gentle, rhythmic white noise can block sounds that might otherwise startle you. A digital clock that can be dimmed at night is a good idea, too. While the light that comes from the average alarm clock might seem miniscule during the day, when you’re in bed and your eyes have become accustom to the dark, that little light will fill your whole bedroom. If the sun comes creeping in under your curtains a little too early, consider slipping on a sleep mask to keep your world nice and dark until you decide it’s time to get up for the day.