When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it’s a question of quantity and quality. People of all ages need to get a certain amount of sleep in order to function well, but how well they sleep can also affect them. The brain remains active during sleep, with events occurring at different stages. Some sleep stages are necessary in order to feel well rested and energetic the next day, while research has shown that others help with learning and to create memories.
Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. While the some people think that older people require less sleep, there is no proof to substantiate that. Some elderly people might require more than eight hours of sleep and might take cat nips during the day.
As we age, there is a tendency to spend less time in the deep, restful stages of sleep. Older people are more easily awakened and have difficulty returning to sleep. As far as the quality of sleep, frequent awakenings can affect how well rested the individual will feel in the morning. This can affect one’s mood as well the ability to think clearly, react quickly, and creatively problem solve. Relationships can suffer when sleep is poor, and one’s immune system can be affected, leaving the individual vulnerable to infection and illness.
Here are recommendations for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. This includes coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.
- Exercise before 3 p.m.
- Limit alcohol before bedtime.
- Don’t eat large meals near bed time.
- Avoid medicines that delay or interrupt your sleep, if at all possible. This includes some heart, blood pressure, asthma, cough, cold and allergy medications. Discuss this with a physician.
- Don’t take naps after 3 p.m.
- Relax before going to bed.
- Take a hot bath during the evening.
- Have a good sleeping environment – keep the room a comfortable temperature and dark, turn off the TV.
- Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing like reading.
- See a sleep specialist if you continue to have difficulty sleeping.