While sleep is essential for mental and physical health, aging presents some sleep challenges. About half of all seniors report a sleep problem such as taking longer to fall asleep, shorter sleep, waking up often and napping more and longer. As we age, our body clock deteriorates and melatonin (a sleep inducing chemical) levels decline. To increase the amount and quality of sleep, the three main factors are (1) routine, (2) sleeping environment, and (3) diet and exercise.
Routine: A consistent evening routine works best for sleeping. Going to bed at the same time and “winding down” makes a considerable difference. Avoid uses of electronic devices such as smartphones and television as they emit “blue light” which inhibits melatonin production and can upset body rhythms. Blue light blocking lenses may avoid this problem.
Sleeping Environment: Cooling down the bedroom can lead to better sleep. If the thermostat is out of your control, a fan will help. Light should be just enough to allow you not to trip and fall should you need to get out of bed. Darkness options are blackout blinds or curtains and covering any electronics that emit light. An eye mask can work wonders too. Outside noises or partners who snore can disturb sleep. Consider “white noise” machines or spa-like recordings to help you sleep. Like the eye mask for light, consider ear plugs for noise. While a firm, comfortable mattress and quality pillows with breathable fabrics are essential, there are other high-tech options that may assist, such as mattress and pillows that adjust their temperature as yours changes. Many people report a weighted blanket works wonders.