A good night’s rest is one of the most important things you can do for your body and mind. Sleep supports improved learning, problem solving and your ability to process and control your emotions. Good sleep habits can also help keep your heart and circulation healthy. And if you’re suffering from chronic sleep deficiency, you might be at increased risk for obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even stroke.
Even though it’s important, 70 million Americans struggle with sleep problems.
Even a loss of just 1–2 hours of sleep per night for more than two nights in a row lowers your ability to stay attentive, be reactive, and make decisions. This lack of control can become dangerous — sleepy drivers attribute to about 100,000 car accidents each year.
Fortunately, there are ways you can help yourself get a full night’s rest.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Respecting your body’s changing sleep schedule is critical to getting restful sleep. As we age, our body’s internal clock adjusts to an earlier bedtime and earlier rising time.
If you go to bed late, you may end up losing sleep. Keeping a regular bedtime schedule that gives you an extra hour or two to fall asleep will help you get in enough hours before you wake up the next morning.
Tip: Try a soothing bedtime ritual to help you wind down, like taking a bath, reading a book or listening to music.
Find Out if Your Medication Interferes With Sleep
As we age, we tend to need more medications. But medication can interrupt your night’s sleep.
Talk to your doctor about your medication to see if it can affect your sleep schedule. Your doctor can recommend changing the timing or the dosage, or switching to an alternative prescription if necessary.
Develop Better Daytime Habits
The way you spend your day can affect how well you sleep at night. Making sure you stay active and get enough regular exercise throughout the day can help you feel tired when it’s time for bed.
Walking with a friend, swimming, hiking, or golfing can tucker you out and help you fall asleep quickly (and stay asleep throughout the night).
Your diet and other lifestyle habits make a difference on your sleep schedule, too. Limiting caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can help you have a restful night.
Tip: Avoid looking at your television screen, laptop screen or mobile phone for an hour before bed. Keep the lights dim, too!
Determine if You Have a Sleeping Disorder
At any age, you may experience difficulties sleeping. Life changes, stress, poor diet and lack of exercise may affect how we sleep.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may want to see a doctor to determine if you have a sleeping disorder:
- You wake up groggy after eight hours or more of sleep
- You snore or stop breathing in bed (this could be a sign of sleep apnea)
- You’re excessively tired throughout the day
- You’ve had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for at least a month
Sometimes trouble sleeping is a side effect of other issues, such as depression, chronic pain or an illness. If any of these symptoms are affecting your night’s sleep, you should speak to your doctor to find a solution.