Even as an older adult, you still require the same amount of sleep as those younger than you, around seven to nine hours per night. Getting enough sleep each night is crucial in staying healthy and feeling alert. If you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, you might suffer from irritability the following day or feel depressed. Plus, you are more likely to encounter memory problems or suffer from falls and accidents. We share some ways to help you improve your quality of sleep and tackle the causes of insomnia.
Stick to a sleep schedule
Everyone has heard of the phrase ‘body clock’, but what does it mean? Our sleep is regulated by sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. The former tells us that we need to sleep after having been awake from a long period of time. It also helps us to get enough sleep during the night in order to stay awake the next day. The circadian biological clock creates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness during the entire day. For example, in adults, the ‘strongest sleep drive’ is between around 2:00-4:00am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00pm – which definitely accounts for those afternoon naps! If this circadian rhythm is interrupted and we keep irregular sleeping hours, you are likely to find it difficult to concentrate, much like being jet-lagged. For this reason, it is advised to stick to a regular sleep schedule so that your body prepares to sleep at the same time each day.
Create a pre-bedtime ritual
Apart from going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, it’s also advised to build some ‘wind-down’ time into your sleep schedule. It’s a good idea to stop watching television at least an hour before bed. This is because the light released from our screens prevents the release of the hormone melatonin, which keeps us feeling alert, rather than preparing the body for sleep. Taking a warm (not hot) bath will help you relax and ensure your body reaches a temperature that is perfect for rest. Reading also helps to relax the mind by distracting it from everyday worries and preoccupations, while meditation and relaxation CDs are known to work well as part of a bedtime ritual.
Evaluate your bedroom
Is your bedroom ‘sleep-friendly’? For a better night’s sleep, it’s a good idea to evaluate your bedroom and look out for factors that could be interrupting your sleep. For example, your bedroom should be cool, between 18 and 24 degrees celsius. It should also be free of noise and light. You could invest in blackout blinds, for example. Another factor to consider in the bedroom is your mattress. If you are still tired after a full night’s sleep, wake up with unusual or more stiffness than normal, find sleeping in a hotel bed or at a relative’s more comfortable and have had your mattress for longer than the recommended seven years, it might be time for a change!
The US National Sleep Foundation found that at least 150 minutes of exercise per week could improve sleep quality by a staggering 65%. Exercise helps to fatigue your body and mind, helping you sleep better during the night. Seeing results through exercise can take time, however, so it’s best to keep it up! Plus, exercise has been said to help with symptoms of movement disorders, which can greatly impact your sleep quality, such as restless legs syndrome (RLS).