As we age, the quality of our sleep changes dramatically; it becomes increasingly hard to drift off into harmonious and uninterruptible slumber like we used to when we were young, and so we’re not only more prone to insomnia, but a lot of people also have trouble with waking up in the middle of the night, often not being able to fall asleep again.
And while this is perfectly natural, there are quite a few changes that you can make to your lifestyle in order to vastly improve the quality of your sleep, even as a senior citizen. In this article, I’m going to share a few tips with you on how to achieve just that.
No matter how old you are, exercise is always the answer to a myriad of physical conditions you may suffer from, even insomnia. Humans aren’t a sedentary species by any standards and this means that we were meant to move around as much as possible. So whether it’s a short walk around your block or some light cardio in the gym, it’s important that you do whatever you can to expend a bit of energy. You’ll find that it’ll not only be easier for you to fall asleep, but the quality of your sleep will increase significantly.
Change Your Diet
If you have chronic insomnia or general trouble falling asleep, one of the first things you’ll want to look at is your diet. An unhealthy, unbalanced diet with a high concentration of sugary snacks/drinks can significantly impact sleep quality and make you feel chronically tired. Reducing sugar is the first thing you should do, and after that you should try to ditch those midnight snacks as well. Your body finds it much easier to drift off into dreamland if it doesn’t have to take care of digestion at the same time, so keep that in mind the next time you open your fridge at 11:30 PM. And finally, try to introduce more fresh food into your meals, and cut down on the canned goods if at all possible.
We all love a good afternoon nap, it can be refreshing and give us that much-needed jolt of energy to remain functional for the rest of the day. However, there’s a right and a wrong way to approach afternoon naps, and if you’re not careful it can make your insomnia a lot worse. If you feel like you need to take a nap, try to do it as early in the afternoon as possible and not longer than 30 minutes; this is the perfect amount of time to give your body a chance to rest without letting it go into deep sleep, as that can disturb your entire sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Exposure to Sunlight
Interestingly enough, one of the most common reasons for sleep deprivation in elderly people is a disbalance in melatonin levels, a molecule that plays a crucial role in regulating our body’s sleep-wake cycles during the day. Since melatonin is best secreted during exposure to the sun’s rays, it’s recommended that you try to get at least two hours of direct sunlight per day, and keep your blinds open whenever you can.
This one should only be used as a last resort, when all of the other methods fail to bring you healthy, natural sleep. Consult your doctor before you take any meds, and by no means should you decide on the dosage yourself. All sleep medication is addictive to a certain degree and the more you use them, the harder it will be for you to fall asleep without them, so I definitely recommend getting a professional medical opinion before resorting to it. Keep dosages as low as possible and use them only when you’re desperate to get those Z’s, and you should be fine.
Theresa Brawner is a 28-year-old fitness instructor from Boston, MA, who writes articles for www.diet.st. in her free time. When she isn’t helping new moms get back in shape, you can find her in the kitchen, working on new recipes.