It's estimated that about one-half of all seniors have some sleep problems. As we age, we tend to have more "fragile" sleep, meaning we're more easily awakened, and deep sleep stages get shorter. Some of these sleep changes are hormonal, but various illnesses, pain, psychiatric conditions, and medications can also interfere with rest.
Whatever the reason, being deprived of sleep can leave you tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate. It can also cause headaches, memory troubles, and accidents. On the other hand, we generally need less sleep as we get older, so if you feel rested and refreshed in the morning, don't feel drowsy during the day, and don't need long naps, you don't have anything to worry about.
It's easier to get a good night's sleep if you try the following:
- Don't have drinks with alcohol or caffeine before bedtime. Alcohol may put you to sleep at first, but you'll get less deep sleep and may wake up more often later.
- Avoid having a big meal less than three hours before bedtime.
- Don't smoke since nicotine can keep you awake (it's a stimulant).
- Try not to worry about things when it's time to sleep - they can wait until tomorrow. If you simply can't put them out of your mind, try writing out your concerns to help put them aside until daylight.
- Avoid watching TV or reading in bed - keep the bed for sleeping.
- Relax before going to bed by doing deep breathing exercises, drinking warm milk, or taking a warm bath.
- If you can't get to sleep, try not to watch the clock. Instead, get out of bed and watch TV or read until you feel tired.
If your sleep troubles last over a month or disrupt day-to-day life, don't suffer in silence - ask your doctor for help.