Many things change as we age, and sleep is not the least of them. As you get older, you may notice you’re more susceptible to sleep disturbances and insomnia, which can make it difficult to get the rest you need each night. But with healthy sleep habits, and smart strategies for better sleep, you can enjoy good sleep as you grow older.
Why Sleep Can be Difficult After 50
Hormonal changes: If you’re going through menopause, you are likely to experience disturbed sleep. Menopause comes with a host of symptoms that can make sleep difficult, including hot flashes, insomnia, and sleep disordered breathing including sleep apnea and snoring.
Activity level: If you’re not as active as you used to be, it can interfere with sleep. When you get exercise, your body gets tired out. You also benefit from reduced stress. And if you’re exercising outside, exposure to daylight can help cement the timing of your circadian rhythm. If you’re not getting activity during the day, your body may get confused and think you’re in a restful period, which can make you feel less sleepy later.
Eating and drinking late: You may not be careful about what you’re consuming before bed. And even though a glass of wine in the evening may make you feel more relaxed, it’s not doing you any favors when it comes to sleep. Alcohol, especially just before bed, can lead to more shallow sleep and less overall rest.
Exposure to light: Whether it comes from overhead lights, your television, or phone, light exposure can interfere with healthy sleep. Light is one of the environmental cues your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) uses to determine what time of day it is and whether you should be alert or asleep. When you’re exposed to light, your body thinks it’s time to be alert.
Discomfort: Whether from your sleeping environment or physical symptoms, discomfort can keep you from sleeping well. Pain and stiffness can complicate sleep, and an environment that’s not good for sleep can cause problems as well.
Strategies for Better Sleep After 50
Seek treatment for menopausal symptoms. Some women choose to get hormonal treatment or other medical treatment for menopause. Relieving the symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes, may be helpful for improving sleep as you go through hormonal changes.
Exercise on a regular basis. Generally, about 30 minutes of at least light exercise each day can help you sleep better. Even shooting for 10 minutes a day of exercise can be helpful for sleep, especially if you do it regularly.
Be careful what you consume at night. If you’re drinking coffee in the evening or going to bed with a glass of wine or bite of chocolate, you may be disrupting your sleep. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. If you drink coffee, it’s best to stop before 3 p.m.
Mange light exposure. Limit the light you’re exposed to when it’s dark outside and especially just before bed. Dim the lights in your home and turn off the TV. Avoid screen time, including phone use, at least one hour before bed to avoid confusing your circadian rhythm.
Create a healthy sleeping environment. Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Use tools like blackout curtains, a fan, or white noise machine to make your sleeping environment better for resting. If you find yourself cold at night on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in an electric blanket.
Getting older comes with many changes, and if sleep has become a problem for you since you’ve turned 50, you’re not alone. Practice healthy sleep habits to support a better night’s sleep and get the rest you need to face every day fresh.