By Michele D. Baker, adapted from an article from the National Institute on Aging (nia.nih.gov)
We all want a good night’s rest – enough sleep helps you stay healthy and alert. But many older people don’t sleep well. If you’re always sleepy or you find it hard to get enough sleep at night, it may be time to see a doctor. Waking up every day feeling tired is a sign that you are not getting the rest you need.
Sleep and Aging
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7-9 hours each night. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. Some medicines can keep you awake. Lack of rest can be a problem, though, as it can make you irritable, forgetful, depressed, and more prone to falls or accidents.
Insomnia Is Common in Older Adults
Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults aged 60 and older. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia can last for days, months, and even years. Having trouble sleeping can mean you take a long time to fall asleep, wake up many times in the night, wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep, wake up tired, or feel very sleepy during the day.
Over-the-counter sleep aids or doctor-prescribed medications may help when used for a short time. But remember, medicines aren’t a cure for insomnia.
Some people find that relaxing their bodies puts them to sleep. Imagine your toes are completely relaxed, then your feet, and then your ankles. Work your way up the rest of your body, section by section. You may drift off to sleep before getting to the top of your head.
Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light, give yourself about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you’re still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
Related: Do You Need a Sleep Divorce?
More Ideas for a Good Night’s Sleep
Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling. Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening.
Develop a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, or soaking in a warm bath.
Avoid late night light in the bedroom: television, using your computer, cell phone, or reading on a tablet. Alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake.
Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and as quiet as possible.
Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime. Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime. Stay away from caffeine late in the day, which can keep you awake. And remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep.
If you feel tired and unable to do your activities for more than 2 or 3 weeks, you may have a sleep problem. Talk with your doctor about changes you can make to get a better night’s sleep.