If we aged like the main character in the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” then our later years would mean sleeping 10-12 hours through the night. Unfortunately, only toddlers and college students are able to sleep that long without interruption. Seniors who have likely spent most of their adult lives sleep-deprived probably don’t want to spend the rest of their lives tossing and turning at night.
Adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly, and many of us aren’t meeting that requirement. Here are five things you can do to get a more restful sleep.
1. Diet and Exercise
Let’s examine the link between diet, exercise and sleep. Diet and exercise are important for a good sleep, but sleep is also important for healthy weight management. Sleep regulates moods, energy and brain function. Sleep allows your food to digest while the rest of your body is able to rest. Lack of sleep can also raise your cortisol levels, which can lead to belly fat. Weight gain can then lead to type 2 diabetes.
The types of food you eat can make an impact on your sleep. A healthy diet affects your brain activity, thereby affecting your sleep. As a result, your body’s nightly functions are linked to your sleep. You don’t want to go to bed hungry, but you don’t want to go to bed full either. A full stomach still has to digest and digestion interrupts your sleep. Exercise reduces your stress and makes your tired, leading to better sleep.
2. What You Sleep On
Your mattress and pillow can mean a solid night of sleep or a restless one. One thing you don’t want to skimp on is a good mattress, whether it’s orthopedic, memory foam, or pillow top. Your pillow matters too, as it controls your neck positioning and posture. Some pillows can be too soft, while others can be too firm. If you’re waking up with a stiff neck on some mornings, then it might be your pillow. Your pillow should provide neck support without making you bend or extend in uncomfortable ways. Invest in a good pillow that feels right for you and remember to replace it when it loses shape.
Lighting affects your circadian rhythm, which tells your body when to sleep and wake up. Blue light from electronic devices can signal the body to stop producing the melatonin that helps you sleep. LED lights can also be glaring, but incandescent bulbs have a soothing effect. Consider changing the lighting in your bedroom to help prepare your body to rest.
4. Talk to your doctor
A medical issue, prescription medication or supplement that you’re taking could be causing insomnia and restless sleep. Speak to your doctor if you’re having problems sleeping. She or he may be able to treat the issue, switch you to a different medication, or offer an alternative solution to the problem.
If you’re not living near your loved ones, this might be a good time to purchase a senior-friendly tablet to keep long-distance family apprised of your medical issues though email or video chat. Doing so will allow you to contact multiple family members simultaneously when your medical plan changes.
5. Prepare Your Body and Brain for Sleep
Besides establishing a nightly routine, there are many ways to prepare for sleep. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t consume stimulants close to bedtime, but as mentioned above, food and drinks in general should be avoided. Drinking water too close to bedtime could interrupt your sleep for bathroom breaks. Set the thermostat at a comfortable level so you’re not waking up uncomfortably hot or cold during the night. Put away that tablet, television and other mobile devices before bedtime so your body can produce melatonin without the interference of blue light. Avoid work or mental activity close to bedtime so your brain isn’t on overdrive when you’re trying to shut it off. Think relaxing thoughts and take deep breaths.
Let your senior years be your most peaceful and stress-free. You’ve suffered through so many years of inadequate sleep that now is the time to catch up. You’ll be able to enjoy your waking hours more if your slumber is complete.
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