How to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep
Tips for more restful sleep as you age.
How many hours do you sleep each night? According to the National Institute on Aging, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Here are some helpful tips so you can get the sleep that helps you function well.
How Aging Can Affect Your Sleep
Older adults often have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. If you have wondered why your sleep has been more disrupted than ever before, one reason is that older adults go through the sleep stages differently. As you age, you spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep, or REM sleep. This means you wake up more during the night and have less restful sleep. Here are a few other reasons why you may have trouble sleeping.
Retirement can have a big impact on your sleep. If you’ve recently retired, you may not be as active as before and your schedule might be more flexible. You may take more naps during the day, and your typical bedtime routine may look different than ever before. This major lifestyle change can affect your sleep. Make your sleep schedule a priority to keep some normalcy in your routine, even as your life is taking on so much change.
Sunlight is important for regulating your internal clock. Bright daylight signals to your internal clock that it’s daytime and you should be alert. Dim light signals that it’s evening. That's when your body starts producing melatonin, the hormone that tells your body to relax and get ready to sleep. If you’re not getting enough sunlight, your internal clock won’t work as well as it should, and you may have a hard time falling asleep. Try to get outside every day to get some sunlight (don’t forget the SPF!) to help you sleep better at night.
Medications and Health Conditions
The medications you take can also impact your sleep. Some medications can make you drowsy, and others can make you more alert. Talk to your doctor about your prescriptions to make sure you’re taking your medications at the recommended times.
Health conditions can also affect your sleep. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease can all make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. If you are concerned that a health condition may be affecting your sleep, it is important to talk with your doctor.
Why is Sleep So Important?
Sleep impacts your brain, mood, and physical health. When you don’t sleep enough, you might feel tired, irritable, and even overwhelmed. Sleep is so important for health and well-being at every age. Here’s why.
Sleep and Your Brain
Good sleep helps you process memories and information you’ve learned during the day. Sleep also gives your brain time to rest and recharge. If you sleep well at night, you’ll likely be able to concentrate more, feel good about decision making, and even feel more creative. Getting enough sleep will also reduce your risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep and Your Mood
Sleeping soundly every night improves your energy and your mood. You’ll feel less stressed and more rested and ready to take on the day. Getting enough sleep can also reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Sleep and Your Physical Health
During sleep, your body gets a chance to repair damaged cells, fight off infections, and heal itself. Getting good sleep can help your immune system, healing time, and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
Tips for Better Sleep
You know sleep is important, but actually getting enough sleep can be hard. Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Tips for Daytime Routines
What you do during the day will affect how well you sleep at night. Try these tips next time you’re having a hard time sleeping.
- Exercise regularly to improve sleep. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can boost your mood, plus that physical activity can make you more tired at night.
- Avoid long naps in the afternoon. Limit your daytime naps to under 30 minutes to get better sleep at night.
- Drink less coffee, and avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Eat your biggest meal for lunch, and have a smaller meal before bed. A large meal can make it harder to fall asleep or even wake you up in the night.
- Drink more water during the day and less right before bed to avoid waking up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Tips for Falling Asleep
Your bedtime routine is also so important to help you fall asleep at the end of the day.
- Turn down the temperature. The ideal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Turn off your TV and phone at least an hour before bed. The bright light from screens can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Watch TV in the living room, and only use your bedroom for sleeping. This will help your body relax and fall asleep when you do get into bed.
- Use darkening blinds or curtains on the windows to help keep out any extra light.
- Use a white noise machine if there are loud noises nearby.
- Do something relaxing before bed: take a bath, have a small cup of tea, or read a book. A relaxing ritual signals to your body that it’s time to go to sleep.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule and try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. This helps your body feel sleepy at the same time every night and alert at the same time every morning.
Tips for Getting Back to Sleep at Night
If you find yourself waking up in the night, try these tips to get back to sleep.
- Turn the clock away from the bed so you can’t see it if you wake up in the middle of the night. Watching the clock can make you more stressed and have a harder time going back to sleep.
- Relax your body with a breathing exercise or a progressive muscle relaxation where you focus on relaxing each muscle group in your body, from your toes to your legs, mid-section, arms, fingers, all the way up to your face.
- If you’re wide awake, get up and do something relaxing in another room. Laying in bed with your mind racing can make your body associate your bed with being awake and stressed.
- If you often wake up in pain, ask your doctor about nighttime pain relief.
Restful Sleep and Aging
Everyone has a restless night now and then, but if you often have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, it might be time to change your sleep habits. Visit your doctor to talk about your sleep or call Clover Health for extra support. Clover members can talk to an on-call doctor 24/7. Find out more by calling 1-888-778-1478 (TTY 711) 8 am to 8 pm local time, 7 days a week*
Published on 4/21/21