We’ve all had those nights where sleep is elusive, tossing and turning until the birds started chirping and the sun eventually rises. Getting up and ready for the day is particularly difficult after no sleep, leaving one feeling tired, drained and often unable to think clearly. As getting a good night’s sleep is vital for more energy, improved mood, and a stronger immune system it’s a pattern we’d all like to be in, but unfortunately, as we age, a good night’s sleep can escape us due to a number of reasons. If you’re struggling with a new schedule after retirement, dealing with stress or even the aftermath of an operation, here are a few tips to ensure you get back into a good sleeping routine.
First of all, how do our sleeping patterns change as we age? According to the Sleep Health Foundation, there are a number of reasons why the older generation can have sleeping troubles. One, as we age the hormones our bodies release to help us sleep are released earlier on in the day. This means that you can feel sleepier during the afternoon, and by the time your usual bedtime rolls around, you may no longer feel tired.
Second, as we get older we produce less of the hormone, Melatonin. Melatonin is produced by the body during sleep to regulate our sleep cycles, and if your body has less to produce, you’re less likely to get that much needed shut eye when the time comes. Other reasons for poor quality of sleep for the ageing include; frequent loo trips, pain linked to a surgery or perhaps arthritis, and frequent day naps which make you less tired at night.
One simple tip for sleep troubles, is to ensure a consistent cycle. Pick a bedtime and wake up time, according to how many hours your body needs to feel refreshed (typically between 7 – 9 hours), and stick to those times. Perhaps you’ve recently retired and you no longer have a set schedule, or you’ve moved into a new aged care home, and the activities and routines are slightly different. This can easily put your system out of sorts. Pick a sleep schedule and try as best you can to not waver from it. Sleeping too little during the week and trying to make up for it on weekends for example, just puts more pressure on your body as it tries to adjust to an ever-changing cycle.
Another simple tip, vital to a good night’s sleep, is having a decent mattress. It may be something we all know, but how many of us replace our mattresses when it’s time to do so? The mattress you bought 10 years ago may have been top of the range then, but over the years they can lose their form and become too soft, leading to stiff and sore muscles, and over time can harbour large amounts of dust and mould that can lead to heightened allergies and breathing problems. If you are no longer feeling well rested after a night’s sleep, or experiencing sore muscles or a stuffy nose, it might be time to invest in a new mattress.
Another habit to consider, is that while it’s tempting to watch television right up until your bedtime, experts advise against it for a good night’s sleep. The same goes for looking at your smartphone, and surrounding yourself with bright lights. According to Professor Dorothy Bruck of the Sleep Health Foundation, “If you use the TV to get to sleep, then wake up, you don’t know how to self-soothe and get back to sleep.” Additionally, the brightness of the TV, your smartphone and living room lights disturb your body’s production of Melatonin. Less of this sleep hormone ends up being produced as your body is under the impression it is still day time, leaving you unable to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow.
While poor sleep isn’t only related to age, (stress, anxiety, pain and medication are contributing factors) it can become a problem if it persists, and both your physical and mental health can be compromised. If you’re struggling to get a good amount of quality sleep at night, consider these tips before consulting with your doctor to see if you can rectify it. It might just be one small change you need to make a world of difference.