Sleep is like a magic elixir for the body and the soul. It relaxes and refreshes us. We’ve all heard about the many health benefits of sleep — and experienced the divine pleasure of a warm and cozy bed. But sometimes reaching that pinnacle of health is easier said than done.
As good as sleeping may feel, trying to fall asleep can be agony. F. Scott Fitzgerald has said what many of us are already thinking: “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”
The average American adult gets 7 to 7 ½ hours of sleep each day. Some people assume that seniors actually get more sleep than average if you add in all the time spent on afternoon catnaps!
The truth is that many seniors need more sleep than they’re typically getting. Many have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up early. The reasons are many, but here are a few of the most common:
- Chronic pain
- Snoring or sleep apnea (your own or your partner’s)
- Hormones and hot flashes
- Too much caffeine
- Medication side effects
- Needing to use the bathroom
If any of those sound like you, you might not be getting as much sleep as you should. So what can you do? Call in the dream team. Send in the Sandman. We need some help!
Here are some tips to help you fall—and stay – asleep.
Get into a routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Your body will get used to the timing and become accustomed to falling asleep each night at the same time. Some experts suggest avoiding afternoon naps because all that rest may make it harder to fall asleep at night. On the other hand, if you always take an afternoon nap, carry on! Just consider it part of your routine.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep. And romance. But don’t watch TV, work on your computer or play on your iPad. Your mind and body need to be conditioned to think of the bedroom as the place you go for sleep.
Ban backlit screens before bed. Harsh? Maybe. But your well-rested body will thank you the next day. Lit screens like those found on computers, tablets and smart phones suppress your level of melatonin (which promotes sleep), delay that “sleepy feeling” and keep you alert (even after you put the device away). Don’t use these items as bedtime nears.
Avoid caffeine. For the best sleep, stop drinking anything with caffeine a full six hours before you plan to go to bed.
Exercise early. Regular exercise is good for your body and mind. It can actually help you sleep netter – but not close to bedtime. It’s best to exercise in the morning, but if that’s not possible, be sure to avoid strenuous activity for at least two or three hours before bed.
Keep your room cool. Everyone is different, but most people sleep best in a room cooled (or heated) to a temperature somewhere between 60 and 68 degrees. And don’t suffer in silence – be prepared to add an extra blanket or turn on a fan if the temperature is keeping you awake.
Get a good mattress. Sleep on a good mattress. Soft or firm, pick the one that makes you the most comfortable. And be sure to change your mattress every eight to ten years. Old mattresses can get saggy and weighted down with dust mites. Yuck.
Read for 15 minutes before bed. Choose a book that doesn’t involve a lot of deep thinking and read a chapter or two. This downtime will help you relax and wind down gently.
Don’t stay in bed. If you simply can’t fall asleep – or you wake up in the night – don’t stay in bed and worry about it. Easier said than done, right? Maybe, but your best bet is to get up and read a book or watch TV in a dimly lit room. Don’t use that time to clean the house or read emails. The goal is to feel sleepy.
See your doctor about medical issues. Some medications have the side effect of insomnia. If that’s the case with you, ask your doctor about alternative medications – or ways to counteract the insomnia. Pain can also make it hard to sleep. Find out what you can do to keep your pain in check – especially at night. Got hot flashes? Wear lightweight nightclothes, light covers, and keep the room cool with a fan going.
Find out if sleeping pills are right for you. Sleeping medications work well for some people, but are best when taken for a short period of time. Be sure to take them as directed by your doctor and be watchful for any possible side effects. Over the counter sleep meds (like Tylenol P.M. or Advil P.M.) don’t work well when taken more than three days in a row – and in fact, they may actually keep you awake if taken too many days in a row.
Now you are feeling sleeeeeeeeepy… Don’t you wish it were as easy as having a hypnotist dangle a pendulum in front of your face? If you’ve done everything by the book and you still can’t fall asleep, here are a few more things to try:
- Breathe deeply.
- Relax your muscles one group at a time — starting with your toes.
- Think of a calm relaxing place.
- Drink tea or warm milk.
- Count sheep.
- Repeat something you’ve memorized in the past. It might be anything from a grade school poem to the Lord’s Prayer to the Periodic Table. Saying something over and over can work to crowd out other thoughts (like worries or things you need to get done) and make you feel sleepy.
And one last way to get a good night’s sleep? Leave your worries behind and move to Aston Gardens At Tampa Bay. Their friendly staff, good meals, great friends, and stimulating activities can be just the ticket for a great night’s sleep.
Aston Gardens At Tampa Bay is here to provide a range of senior living options for those ready to start the next chapter of their lives. Contact us today at 813.993.1276 to learn about our senior living programs, amenities, and floorplans.