The idea that you need less sleep as you get older is a myth. You need just as much if not more! However, the way you sleep does change.
In your older years, you’re likely to wake up earlier and feel sleepy long before your usual bedtime. You’ll experience fewer hours of a deep sleep, and you may get up more often during the night. Most boomers feel like this is normal but it’s not. Since they are not able to sleep as long it gets chalked up to, “this must be normal for my age.”
About 40% of the Boomer population report having at least one symptom of insomnia at least a few nights each week, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Let’s figure out what’s keeping you up at night and keeping you from getting the deep restorative sleep you need to slow aging and feel great during the day. Learn more about common sleep issues that affect seniors, along with suggestions for overcoming them.
Strategies for Age-Related Sleep Issues
Many of the physical and social changes associated with aging can affect your sleep.
Be prepared for these new challenges with these tips:
- Manage chronic conditions. Conditions such as autoimmune, pain, arthritis, depression, and many other chronic conditions can interfere with your sleep, and lack of sleep can aggravate your symptoms. Break the cycle by following your health practitioner’s recommendations consistently.
- Treat apnea. If you snore loudly, you may have sleep apnea, a temporary cessation in breathing. Age and obesity increase your risk, but there are effective treatments, including continuous positive airway pressure devices that help keep your respiratory tract open. Weight loss may be the most powerful and effective treatment for sleep apnea.
- Monitor movement disorders. Many persons also develop restless leg syndrome and other movement disorders. Home remedies like stretching and massage may relieve minor symptoms, and many practitioners have effective natural remedies. Testing is available to determine if a nutrient deficiency is the root cause.
- Exercise regularly. Working out will help relieve disrupted sleep and many other effects of aging. Find a variety of safe activities you enjoy or take group classes designed for boomers.
- Stay engaged. Mutually supportive relationships and enriching hobbies will also help to keep you fit. Volunteer in your community and spend time with family and friends.
- Talk with your Nutritionist. Let your nutritionist know about any concerns you have. Keep a journal so you can share relevant information about your sleep habits. There are many effective natural approaches to better sleep quality.
Sleep Hacks for General Sleep Issues
Sleep maybe even more important for your physical and mental health as you grow older. Review your basic daily habits so you can make positive changes.
Try these ideas:
- Darken your bedroom. Shutting out bright lights helps your brain to become drowsy. Turn off the TV at least one hour before bed and use night lights if you get up to use the bathroom.
- Try Blue Light Blocking Glasses. A 2017 study done by the University of Houston found that participants wearing the glasses showed about a 58% increase in their nighttime melatonin levels. “By using blue-blocking glasses, we … can improve sleep and still continue to use our devices.
- Create a melatonin environment. Avoid having screens in your face 2 hours before bed. This includes computers and handheld devices. The blue light blocks your melatonin production. This is the body’s sleep hormone.
- Block out the noise. As you age, you may become more sensitive to noise, as well as light. Use a fan or white noise machine to mask car stereos and garbage trucks.
- Try naps. Changing hormone levels reduce the time that boomers spend in the most restful stages of deep sleep. You may be able to compensate by going to bed earlier or taking daytime naps. Remember that brief naps early in the day are less likely to interfere with your overnight slumber. Set a timer to nap between 20-40 minutes.
- Eat light. Losing excess weight and eating a diet rich in whole foods will enhance your sleep and overall fitness. Eat dinner early and keep it on the lighter side. A meal high in fat will take hours to digest and will interfere with deep restorative sleep. Skip the bedtime snack. You will sleep better and wake more refreshed if you go to bed on an empty stomach.
- Limit alcohol. Substances like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine disrupt sleep, and aging bodies are more sensitive to the effects. If you want a nightcap, drink plain water or herbal tea.
- Rest and relax. Brooding about poor sleep quality can make you too anxious to sleep. If you’re tossing and turning, try meditating or slowly counting down from 100.