Sleep is vital when growing up, and the same is true as we age. However, for older adults, sleeping patterns frequently change. Often, older adults begin experiencing
Sleep is a crucial part of life. We need it to survive. Therefore, falling asleep should be easy, right? You'd think that after a long day doing chores or chasing around grandkids, you'd fall asleep the moment you crawl into bed. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Many retirees and people over the age of 60 find themselves struggling with insomnia or the inability to fall asleep at night. According to Sleep Foundation, as many as 35% of adults are affected by insomnia, and older adults are even more susceptible.
Fall Asleep Faster with These Tips!
Below we've listed five ways seniors can treat insomnia without medication, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.
1. Keep A Regular Sleeping Schedule
As we get older, our sleeping schedules fluctuate, and the amount of rest we need varies. As children, we typically maintain a good sleep schedule because schooling forced us to wake up early. In our young adult years, we're generally able to function with little to no sleeping schedule. Still, as we age, things change drastically. As adults, we require at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but we often find ourselves asking, "Why can't I fall asleep when I want to?"
Our sleeping schedules, or our "circadian rhythms", have a delicate balance that needs to be maintained to feel our best. While it's not always straightforward, people over 50 need to stick to a schedule. Wake up and fall asleep around the same time every day.
The best way to do this is to plan a time when you'd like to go to sleep and slowly work towards that time. For example, your goal is to fall asleep at 10 pm, so on the first day of your new sleeping schedule, you should plan to fall asleep at 11. The next day, plan to sleep at 10:45 pm. The next day, plan to sleep at 10:30 pm. Continue this process until you meet your sleeping goal.
2. Limit Caffeine Consumption
People use caffeine to get a quick jolt of energy when they need it, but most people don't understand why this happens. Caffeine is, in fact, a stimulant that makes us feel more alert or awake by temporarily halting the chemicals that make us feel tired. While caffeine can be helpful in a pinch, it should not be used often because it dramatically impacts our ability to fall asleep later, especially when we advance in years.
It is not recommended that seniors drink a lot of caffeine because people over 60-years-old process it differently. When we drink a coffee or a soda, a mild adrenaline-like effect occurs in our bodies which can stay in our system long after we've ingested it. This usually results in staying awake well past the desired time.
Beyond being unable to fall asleep, there are many reasons why we should avoid caffeine altogether. Symptoms of stomach ulcers, gastritis, and osteoporosis can be worsened by caffeine's effects, causing more pain and discomfort than necessary.
3. Limiting Screen Time
Thanks to modern technology, our entire lives revolve around screens. Televisions, computers, cellphones, tablets - you can't get away from them. Screens emit a blue digital light that keeps us awake, even long after we've turned it off and shut our eyes. The theory is that blue light somehow keeps sleep-inducing chemicals like Melatonin from signaling the brain to fall asleep.
People who spend an extended time looking at a digital screen tend to have more insomnia issues and have difficulty keeping a regular sleeping schedule. While it is nice to binge a few episodes of your favorite tv show or read on a tablet before bed, it's recommended that you cut off all screen time at least an hour before you want to fall asleep.
4. Remove All Light and Distracting Sound
This tip might sound simple, but it truly is the most crucial aspect of maintaining a proper sleep schedule, especially in retirement. Some may have no issue falling asleep with the lights on, in the middle of a noisy room, or with the television blaring, but this is not the case with most people. Most of us need darkness and silence to rest our minds and bodies.
Our brains and bodies are hard-wired to sleep when the sun is down. Therefore, darkness will signal your body that it's time to rest, and too much light exposure can alter your circadian rhythm.
When it comes to sound, we don't need complete silence, but we need a controlled, safe environment. Abrupt or unexpected noises wake us up, which is why alarms effectively rouse us from our slumber. It's vital to ensure that your sleeping environment will have no unexpected noises to jolt you awake.
5. Ambient Sounds
As stated above, we don't need complete silence to fall asleep. Some people find themselves uncomfortable with complete silence. The best way to combat that is to add ambient sounds to your sleeping environment. You can stream ambient soundtracks on your phone, you can purchase a CD with waterfall sounds of whale songs, or you can turn on a fan. If these don't work, you can even purchase white noise machines to provide optimal sounds for sleep. Whatever it is, you have to make sure the sound is calming, constant, and there's little chance that an abrupt noise will disrupt your sleep.
The nighttime should be a haven for rest and relaxation, not stress and insomnia. Luckily, fixing your sleep schedule is easy with a bit of work and the correct information. With the steps listed above, you'll be able to take back your nights.
Let us know in the comments below - What's your favorite tip to fall asleep quickly?