Have you ever wondered why toddlers fight their daily naps like the plague, while you would give absolutely anything to get a good night’s sleep?
Diet, exercise, and sleep all go hand in hand as we commit to maintain a healthy lifestyle in our later years. It is quite possible that you’ve gotten a good routine of healthy diet and regular exercise and still find that you cannot sleep through the night. There are a few reasons for this, and there are some effective solutions as well.
The prime reason we don’t sleep well as we age is that we simply don’t need as much sleep as we used to. (Just compare the energy you use to that of a toddler!) Commonly those 65 and older need just 7-8 hours of sleep a night. So, if you find that you’re naturally waking up a little too early for your taste, consider if it really is too early. If you’ve had a solid seven hours, head to the coffee shop or the gym!
We have all had those nights when we long for the pillow, only to find that our minds are spinning and anxiously attacking every challenge of life, maybe a few contrived challenges as well! What you need is a little bit of focus and structure. One way to help is to plan your next day. Write down the first five things you will do the next day, and your mind will rest more quickly. This is a MUCH better option than turning on the television or scrolling on a computer. Screen time is a proven stimulant to your brain and a very poor choice as a sleep aid.
Typically, seniors will find that they start to nap more frequently as they age. If you are one of these, consider that a daily nap usually means a greater struggle falling asleep at night. If you do choose to nap, make sure it is only 10-20 minutes in length (the ever-popular “power nap”) and occurs before 2:00 pm. If you find yourself drifting off later than 2:00, try some light exercise to boost your energy and carry you ‘til bedtime.
Finally, it may be time to consider a sleep aid. As you age, your body produces fewer hormones, which means less REM sleep. One of these hormones is Melatonin, which your body produces as a response to darkness. If uninterrupted sleep continues to be a challenge, even once you’ve adjusted some lifestyle habits, your doctor may encourage a Melatonin supplement as a safe place to begin.