There’s nothing like getting a good night’s sleep. Not sleeping enough can make you feel drained, even delirious, which is not a great way to start a day. Sleep is a basic need like food and water; if you don’t get enough of it your body suffers. Sleep interruptions can come in many forms: a snoring spouse, a noisy environment, overstimulation before bedtime, side-effects from medication, or pain. The Sleep Foundation says “Mental and physical health conditions can also interfere with sleep. Conditions that commonly affect sleep in older people include depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, and conditions that cause discomfort and pain, such as arthritis” (www.sleepfoundation.org/aging-and-sleep). Though some causes of poor sleep require the expertise of a doctor or specialist to address, or medication, there are some techniques a person can use on their own to sleep better.

The health experts, which include doctors, nurses, and psychologists, on the website Start Sleeping.org (https://startsleeping.org/seniors-sleep/#), say the average adult needs from seven to nine hours of sleep a night. “It’s a common misconception that seniors need less sleep, their needs are the same as anyone else’s.” The site also explains that 44% of older Americans suffer from sleep issues. As such, experts offer these tips for better sleep:

Limit liquids: Try not to drink anything an hour before you go to bed.

Avoid caffeine: Since coffee and tea and other caffeinated beverages have a diuretic effect, they can make you have to use the restroom more. Avoiding caffeinated beverages in the six hours before bedtime will also help you fall asleep easier.

Employ a sleep routine: Having a bedtime schedule with a set time to hit the sack and when to wake up in the morning “helps your body adjust to whatever changes it is going through.” 

Turn off electronics: Switch off televisions, cellphones, computers or tablets, a half an hour to an hour before bedtime. “Screens can emit blue light, which research has shown can affect your ability to fall and stay asleep.”

The Sleep Foundation also points out that daily napping habits may be sabotaging your nighttime sleep. “While some experts suggest that a short daytime nap may be beneficial, many agree that extended napping and napping later in the day can make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime and create sleep disruptions.” In addition to limiting nap time or making sure not to nap too late in the day, Sleep Foundation specialists suggest a nightly routine that involves relaxing activities before bed like taking a soothing bath, reading, or quiet time. 

If you think music may help settle you into sleep, YouTube has many options of deep sleep music — some with ocean, rain, or waterfall sounds or just instrumental. Spotify and Apple apps also have options for tranquil, sleep-inducing music. The website Calmsound.com offers “an oasis of relaxation” with sounds ranging from ocean waves, rainforest and country garden, to a “spirit of nature” mix. Just remember, if you’re listening on a smartphone or tablet, be sure to keep the device far enough away from your bed or turn the screen off so the blue light won’t create an unwanted sleep impediment. 

Sleep.org presents this recommendation: ONLY use your bedroom for SLEEP! Do not do work in your bedroom. Your bedroom should be a comfortable, calming environment that isn’t too hot or too cold (cooler with cozy comforters/blankets is best) and can keep out any unnecessary light. Blackout shades may be a good investment if your room doesn’t get dark enough. Also, keep bright clocks or other electronics with blue-light-emitting faces out of view or out of the room completely.

Another good idea to safeguard proper sleep is to resist the urge to have a late-night snack. Indulging in a late-night snack is a no-no because it “can lead to poorer sleep quality and increase the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).” If you must eat before you get some shut-eye, WebMD (www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/trouble-sleeping-some-bedtime-snacks-can-help-you-sleep) suggests carbohydrate-rich foods “because they likely increase the level of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood.” Suggestions include cereal with milk, a cookie or two, toast or a small muffin. Some assert that herbal chamomile tea or tart cherry juice (an hour or two before bedtime, of course) help encourage sleep as well. Healthline.com (www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-tart-cherry-juice-benefits) affirms the sleep benefits of this juice saying, “tart cherries are naturally rich in melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleepiness. Moreover, tart cherries contain a good amount of tryptophan and anthocyanins, two compounds that may help the body create melatonin and lengthen its effects.”

Hopefully some of the above-mentioned sleep tricks will help you the best sleep you’ve had in years! Just like we, as parents, worked diligently day after day to get our little ones to sleep, we need to commit to our own sleep habits and routine to get our sleeping habits on track.

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