A good night’s sleep isn’t always easy for seniors and those who care for them. When the sun retires, many older adults find it is difficult to relax and fall asleep, or stay asleep throughout the night. Sleepless nights translate to sluggish days that can do more than make a person irritable. Chronic lack of sleep can take its toll on a person’s health, making a good night’s sleep critically important.
Intentionally preparing for a restful night’s sleep can help seniors and caregivers get the sleep they need now to avoid health problems later. Take the following steps to encourage a good night’s sleep:
- Exercise regularly: Exercising a few hours before bedtime makes falling asleep easier and can help you sleep sounder. Finishing an exercise program at least three hours before bedtime helps the body cool down and fall asleep easier.
- Reduce caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant, producing an alerting effect. Avoid caffeinated beverages at least 6-8 hours before retiring to bed.
- Keep to a consistent schedule: When you either sleep in or stay up too late, your brain’s “circadian clock” can easily be thrown off and interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. To keep your “clock” running on schedule, maintain a consistent bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends.
- Develop a relaxation routine: Creating a relaxing bedtime routine such as listening to soothing music, soaking in a warm bath, or reading a book can help your body and brain wind down and prepare for sleep. Avoid bright lights and loud noises, and try not to engage in stressful activities like bill paying or problem solving just before bed.
- Create a calming environment: Your bedroom should be comfortable, dark and quiet.
- Maintain a sleep-only zone: Leave computers and TVs in the office and/or living room and use the bedroom for sleep only. When we try to multitask or bring stimulating light from a TV or computer into the bedroom, we’re inhibiting a good night’s sleep.