Sleep problems can affect anyone at any age, but research has shown about half of older adults have difficulty sleeping, making it a big issue for 60-pluses.
As we get older, we make less of a sleep-promoting hormone called melatonin, which can cause difficulties in going to sleep or getting good-quality sleep.
Meanwhile, some sleep disorders, such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea, are more common in older people. And medications for many common conditions, from arthritis to Parkinson’s disease, can also interfere with sleep.
Poor sleep over a long period can have a major impact on our mental wellbeing. That’s why it’s important to deal with sleep-related issues, rather than ignoring them.
Lauretta Stace, the general manager of healthy ageing at Uniting, has these tips for better sleep.
Establish a wind-down routine
Allow yourself at least an hour to relax before bedtime.
If you have things to do the next day, keep a notepad by your bedside and write the tasks down before turning off the lights. This will help your brain ‘switch-off’.
If you have trouble relaxing, consider a warm bath, meditation, or gentle background music to help you wind down before bed.
Create a sleep sanctuary
Use dim lighting in the bedroom and turn off all lights before you go to sleep, so the room is in darkness.
Keep noise to a minimum, and avoid having a computer, mobile phone, or TV in your bedroom.
Lastly, settle any pets in their beds so you’re not disturbed during the night.
Get the light just right
The part of your brain that controls sleep/wake time is regulated by light and darkness, so make sure that you get the lighting right in your bedroom.
Avoiding stimulation from glowing screens is particularly important, because the blue light they give off can slow the production of melatonin.
Consistency is key
Your circadian rhythm, or body clock, functions best when you stick to a routine.
Get your body into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same, even on weekends.
Avoid partying before bed
Eating a big dinner and drinking alcohol may make you feel drowsy at the time, but these can interrupt your rest, reducing the amount of deep sleep you have.
Drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and cocoa, can keep you awake so should be avoided just before bedtime.
Use tech wisely
While it’s good to avoid the brain stimulus from some technological devices, using a wearable device to monitor your sleep can help you to understand your sleep patterns and adjust your habits or environment to improve your sleep.
Seek expert advice
If you’re consistently having trouble nodding off, or staying asleep, talk to your doctor, because sleep disorders are treatable.
Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What’s your secret to getting to sleep?