How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? Although experts suggest at least seven hours of sleep every 24 hours, some people function well with only five to six hours of sleep each night. The best way of knowing whether you’re experiencing sleep deprivation is to “listen” to your body. Do you feel sluggish in the morning? Do you need extra caffeine to keep you up? Are you irritable or emotional? If you answered affirmatively to any of these questions, you’re likely not sleeping enough or even suffering from a sleep disorder.
Studies show that people are exposed to sleep disorders as they age. According to UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, sleep patterns change slowly over time. These biological changes can result to medical conditions and illnesses that disrupt our normal body clock. Other factors that contribute to sleep disorders in older people are pain, depression, and medication.
Here are seven hacks to sleeping well as you age.
1) Know how much nightly zzz’s you need
How much sleep should you get each night? Apparently, there is no consensus on this matter. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18 to 64 should be sleeping for seven to nine hours per night. Older adults aged 65 and above are recommended seven to eight hours of nightly zzz’s. However, a study by researchers at San Diego School of Medicine suggests that women aged 50 and above who sleep for five to 6.5 hours each night are likely to live longer than their peers who slept less than five years or more than 6.5 hours. The 14-year research involved 459 US women aged 50 to 81 years.
Observe yourself. For a period of one week, record the number of hours you sleep soundly at night and how you feel the morning after. If you experience heart palpitations or fatigue, you may need to sleep longer. If you keep on waking up in the middle of the night, the disruptions may be due to an underlying medical condition or your sleeping environment. Seek medical help if necessary.
2) Reconsider your diet
One of the most effective sleep tips for over 50 is proper diet. First, manage the amount of food you consume. Dr. Michael Breus, author of Beauty Sleep, said: “A big meal increases the blood flow to your digestive tract, causing your stomach to secrete more gastric acid and making your pancreas and intestinal muscles work harder.” Eat small amounts of food every two hours. Avoid skipping midday meals as this can lead to splurging on the next meals.
Doctors recommend sleep-inducing foods including fish, cherries, bananas, and spinach. High-protein foods can prevent tryptophan, a natural sedative, from reaching the brain. However, when combined with carbs, high-protein foods can help you get better sleep at night. Have whole-grain cereal with organic milk for your afternoon snack.
3) Coffee, tea or milk?
It’s a known fact that caffeine effectively fights sleepiness. Recent studies also suggest its power to protect against serious diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart diseases. This well-loved drink also boosts energy and helps sharpen the memory. You don’t necessarily need to give up your coffee to ensure you sleep better at night. It’s all about moderation. Studies reveal that the best time to enjoy a cup of hot coffee is between roughly 10:00 a.m. and noon, and 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Avoid caffeine four hours before bedtime. Instead, drink warm milk or chamomile tea an hour before going to bed for a good night’s sleep.
4) Regulating gadget use
Pew Research Center reports that 58% of US adults aged 50 to 64 and 30% of those aged 65 and older own a smartphone. Moreover, close to half of all Americans own a tablet. The near saturation levels of electronic gadget use is affecting our lifestyle habits. How many times do you check your smartphone or tablet at night? Do you know that the artificial light in your electronic gadget is affecting your sleeping habits? This light, which mimics daytime environment, is forcing the brain to stay awake. If you want to doze off easily, disconnect from your electronic gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. This also goes with your late-night TV watching. Consider turning your bedroom into a no-gadget zone.
5) Yoga and meditation
Do you need easy tips to get a good night’s sleep? Learn relaxation activities such as yoga, tai-chi, and mindfulness meditation. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that mindfulness meditation, or focusing on breathing and awareness of the present moment, helps improve sleep habits. By practicing mindfulness for 20 minutes during the day, you can easily evoke the relaxation response at night when you’re having trouble falling asleep.
6) A bedroom conducive for sleep
How to properly sleep? Look around your bedroom. Does your sleeping area evoke relaxation, or does it trigger anxiety and stress? Revolutionizing sleep requires drastic changes in your lifestyle. If you’re used to doing office work in your bedroom, thus making your sleeping space a makeshift work area, then you’re likely causing your own sleep disorders. Make your bedroom a true refuge for relaxation. Install ambient lighting, ensure the temperature is comfortably low during bedtime, block outdoor light, and make sure you have memory foam and pillows that promote body alignment.
7) Learn to shut your thoughts
Mindfulness meditation helps evoke relaxation response by shutting off mental chatter. Do you know the cause of your endless thoughts at night? Is it due to unfinished work in the office or bills and deadlines? If something bothers you, don’t force yourself to bed. Go to your desk and jot down your thoughts in your journal. You can also write down your activities for the next day to put your mind at ease.
Sleep is an important aspect of our lives that, sadly, we wittingly neglect. Whether you’re 25 or 55, a quality sleep should always be a priority together with nutrition and exercise. If you’re having sleep problems, don’t take this as simply a part of aging. Sleep disorders can be caused by a serious medical condition. Speak with your doctor and discuss ways on how to improve your sleep habits.