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SALT LAKE CITY — Remember when you could go to bed at midnight and sleep until noon? Once you left your 20s behind, you probably realized that getting a good night’s sleep differs dramatically the older you get.
That’s because sleep patterns change as you age. Adults in their 50s and 60s have a harder time falling asleep and getting necessary REM to rejuvenate their bodies.
While you still need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, when and how you sleep changes. Here are five easy tips to help you remain well-rested so your mind and body stay healthy and alert.
1. Get in a routine
Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep problem in adults over 60. To combat this frustrating sleep disorder, go to bed and get up at the same time each day to reset your circadian rhythms. Limit napping and bump up your bedtime a little earlier if you feel drowsy during the day.
You may find your night owl ways from your youth have completely vanished and now you need to go to bed earlier — and that’s OK. Earlier to bed means earlier to rise, so you’ll be able to enjoy quiet mornings instead of quiet nights.
If you find that light is keeping you up or waking you too early, try investing in some blackout curtains to create a darker sleep environment.
2. Upgrade your mattress
Don’t jump to conclusions if you’re having a hard time sleeping with each passing year. It might not be your health, but your mattress. It’s recommended that you replace your mattress every eight years. Why? Because your old one could be a breeding ground for germs and may not support your body the way you need it to — leading to soreness, muscle aches and potential chronic skeletal problems. Here are some warning signs that it’s time to go mattress shopping:
- You wake up stiff and sore regularly.
- You’ve made a visible groove in your bed (more than half of an inch).
- You wake yourself up while trying to get comfortable (tossing and turning).
- You find yourself drifting off to sleep more easily in a chair than in bed.
3. Get exercise
Exercise is important for everyone, regardless of age. And it’s not just for your overall health, either. It can also affect your sleep quality too. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day (getting your heart pumping to a level that feels challenging) has been shown to improve sleep.
Get in the practice of taking a rigorous walk, swim, bike ride or exercise class each day. Not only will you sleep better, but you could also improve your heart health and benefit from a slew of other upsides too.
4. Sleep next to plants
Getting older doesn’t just impact your REM sleep, it can also affect your lungs too. As your skeleton weakens and changes shape, your rib cage and lungs become compromised, leading to lung capacity and efficiency issues. That means every breath you take is extra important for your health because oxygen loss can lead to dizziness and falls — the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in seniors. Poor oxygen intake can also lead to other issues like chest pain and general discomfort, which can make sleeping difficult.
Certain flora like the spider plant, peace lily and snake plant are known air purifiers. This means they remove harmful, volatile organic compounds from the air. These plants also filter carbon dioxide and replace it with clean oxygen, so there’s more pure air for you to take in as you sleep.
5. Go to the doctor
Certain sleep problems could be caused by mental and physical illnesses. If you find your sleep patterns changing — causing you to lose sleep or wake up fatigued even after a full night’s sleep — call your doctor immediately. Common conditions that keep seniors awake include sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which can be treated with medication.
On that note, certain prescription drugs can actually lead to less restful sleep and sleep loss. Read up on which medications and drug ingredients negatively impact sleep so you can avoid them, if at all possible. Be sure to consult your doctor before stopping any medications.
Getting older can be a lot easier when you’re prepared with the right information. Sleep is the time when cells regenerate and the mind restores itself, which means that getting a good night’s rest is critical for your health. Follow our tips above to start sleeping better at night — and feeling better during the day.
Hilary is a freelance writer specializing in sleep, wellness and family. She lives with her family of four and a French bulldog in Sugarhouse. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org