Aging and Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can become more difficult as we age. Many adults report that they get less sleep, and have a harder time falling asleep than they did in their younger years. Some report that they’re less satisfied with the quality of their sleep, they wake up one or more times during the night, and that they’re more tired during the day.

 

The National Sleep Foundation has found that 44% of older persons experience one or more of the nighttime symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more. Insomnia may be chronic (lasting over one month) or acute (lasting a few days or weeks) and is often related to an underlying cause such as a medical or psychiatric condition.

Here are some things you can do to promote sleep:

  • Exercise in the afternoon rather than in the evening
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning
  • Use the bed only for sleep or sexual activity
  • Avoid alcohol in the later evening (it increases awakenings later in the night)
  • Try taking naps but remember that sleep in the daytime affects sleep at night. You may find that a short of 30 minutes in the mid to late afternoon may give you energy in the second half of your day, but realize that it could decrease your nighttime sleep. Taking a nap may make it more difficult to fall asleep, or you may sleep for a shorter time

If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet relaxing activity such as reading or listening to music. When you feel sleepy, get back in bed and try again. If not successful in 20 minutes, repeat.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends speaking with your doctor about insomnia symptoms and about any effects these symptoms may have. Your doctor can help assess how serious a problem it is and what to do about it.