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Sleep Hygiene: How You Can Sleep Better

A good night's sleep is an amazing gift! You know the mornings you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day? Those are so much better than the nights of tossing and turning, waking up feeling sluggish and foggy. Healthy sleep is a critical part of both physical and mental health. With a restful night of slumber, we are more productive and have a better quality of life.

May is "Better Sleep Month", and for both seniors and people of ALL ages, better sleep is possible! One of the best ways to facilitate better sleep is to practice what is known as "sleep hygiene". This involves various habits and practices that will help you cultivate more restful, restorative sleep.

How Much Sleep Does a Senior Need?

The National Sleep Foundation has broken down by category the amount of recommended sleep by age. For adults over the age of 65, 7-8 hours a night is recommended.

Poor sleep is not a natural side effect of aging. Changes in a person's circadian rhythms can shift the times they sleep and wake up, but overall a senior still needs to get the recommended 7-8 hours a night. Older adults have a harder time falling asleep at night. About 13% of men and 36% of women over the age of 65 take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Seniors may also produce and secrete less melatonin, which is the hormone that promotes sleep.

Medical problems, whether they are diagnosed or side effects of medications, can interfere with a senior's sleep. Waking up frequently during the night can lead to a person taking naps during this day. This creates a cycle of being awake during the night and needing to sleep during the daytime hours.

The amount of needed sleep differs from person to person. While one person may be able to function well and feel vibrant on seven hours of sleep, another individual may need nine hours of sleep to have that same feeling. You can evaluate how much sleep you need by asking yourself a few simple questions to determine if the rest you got last night was enough:

  • Are you sleepy or drowsy when driving?
  • Do you rely on caffeine or other stimulants to "get you through the day"?
  • Do you regularly wake up during the night and have trouble falling back to sleep?
  • Are there health concerns like obesity or other risk factors that prevent you from sleeping well?

Good Sleep Hygiene

Practicing sleep hygiene should be a habit and part of your regular day just like any other task or commitment. Scheduling a bedtime and sticking to it is necessary to give your body the opportunity to recover and prepare for the next day.

Here are some sleep hygiene habits that will promote better sleep and with it, a better quality of life:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. The effects of caffeine can last from 4-6 hours in a person's body, so drinking it in the evening can severely hamper the ability to fall asleep. Alcohol moderation is key. While drinking alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, your body begins to process the alcohol in the second half of the night which can disrupt your sleep.

  • Exercise! Even a small amount of aerobic exercise during the day will improve your sleep quality. Strenuous activity should not be done right before bed as it can make it harder to nod off. Stretches or yoga right before bed can help you relax and calm down before bed.

  • Avoid foods that might trigger indigestion. Heavy, fatty foods right before bed can lead to stomach pains that will keep you awake. Stay away from spicy foods, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits or anything that will generally doesn't agree with your stomach.

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine. Just like stretching your muscles before a run, certain pre-bedtime habits helps your body recognize that it's bedtime. Take a warm bath, read a book or indulge yourself with a cup of (non-caffeinated) tea.

  • Turn off your phone! The blue light from these electronics actually stimulates the brain, so give your phone or other electronic devices a bedtime, too. Turn them off, put them away and let your brain take a break.

  • Limit your naps. As mentioned earlier, daily naps can create a cycle where a person is trying to "catch up" on sleep during the day which will only cause them to sleep less during the night. If a nap can't be avoided, 30 minutes max should be the goal. A quick "power nap" can help improve mood and overall energy levels, but take care not to sleep too long or rely on naps to make up for missed nighttime sleep.

Make a commitment to yourself to sleep better. Your physical, mental and emotional health will all benefit from more restorative sleep.

Evergreen Senior Living

Learn more about the personalized care services at our Evergreen communities throughout Illinois by visiting our website. We welcome you to take a tour and experience our way of life for yourself.

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Sunday, 26 May 2019

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