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Sleep Tips for 55+

Read Dr. Breus' tips and try some of them tonight!

#1 Follow a regular schedule

If your sleeping habits are bad, you will certainly not sleep well and vice versa. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you're getting the sleep you need every night.

If you are retired, your day may not be very structured, and you may not follow any schedule at all. If nothing else, though, you should definitely have a fixed time for going to bed at night and waking up in the morning.

Training your body to go to sleep and wake up at a specific time each day will help you fall asleep easier and wake up refreshed. However, you must follow this schedule every day, even on weekends.

It is also important to follow certain sleep hygiene. In general, it represents any good habit you practice before bed. Some examples include:

  • Avoid large portions of food, caffeine or alcohol at least a few hours before bed;

  • Allow yourself enough time to finish your to-do list for the day before bed;

  • Give yourself time to rest after you're done with the day's tasks;

  • Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bed.

#2 Don't nap late in the day

A short nap can help you deal with afternoon fatigue more easily, but it's important to take it at the right time to have its effect.

Some of the benefits of an afternoon nap include:

  • Increased vigor and endurance;

  • Reduced stress;

  • A stronger immune system.

The best time to take a nap is between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM, because this time slot is in sync with the natural drop in energy after lunch and will help fight the tiredness that may come over you after lunch.

Important: you should not sleep for more than 90 minutes. Taking too long of a nap will disrupt your natural rhythm and probably make it harder for you to fall asleep at your normal time.

#3 If you exercise, do it at least 4 hours before bed

Physical activity is key to a healthy lifestyle, especially for people 55+. It will support your body and mind health, help you cope better with chronic conditions and improve balance and stability, as well as sleep better.

Even if you're not as mobile as you used to be, there are plenty of exercises that will help you stay active, healthy and sleep well. If you're not sure where to start, try this:

  • Take a daily walk in the neighborhood or a nearby park;

  • Swim or do water gymnastics;

  • Tai Chi;

  • Yoga.

#4 If you can't sleep, get out of bed

The worst thing you can do for yourself is to stay in bed if you can't sleep. If you wake up in the night and have a hard time getting back to sleep, get up and do something small to take your mind off the thought of not being sleepy for a while. Here are some suggestions:

  • If possible, take a walk around the house. A few light movements will help without waking you up further;

  • Journal your thoughts or feelings;

  • Think rest, not sleep. Obsessing over how to get back to sleep at all costs will only make the situation more difficult.

Try some of these techniques or come up with your own way of coping until you feel ready to sleep again. Important: let this happen in low light.

#5 Discuss with your doctor the medications you are taking, as some of them may cause sleep problems

There are many common medications that can cause insomnia. Some of them are:

  • Beta blockers, incl. and against high blood pressure;

  • Dopamine agonists, incl. and those treating Parkinson's and restless legs syndrome;

  • Some antidepressants;

  • Benzodiazepine medications, including Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin.

If you have trouble sleeping while taking any of them, talk to your doctor. He will decide what changes to make or suggest alternatives.

Important: DO NOT STOP medication, change dosages or regimen without first consulting your doctor!

#6 Safe sleep

It is important to take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy and restful sleep, especially if you live alone or are not very mobile.

Before you go to bed, make sure you do the following:

  • You have removed all the objects that you might trip over, especially if you often go to the toilet at night;

  • A night light should be within reach if you need to get up during the night;

  • Keep your phone by the bed if you need to call for help, it doesn't matter if it's a home phone or a cell phone. If it's mobile, make sure you've turned off notifications or are in Do Not Disturb mode.

Are you worried about having sleep disorders? When to seek help:

Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea are quite common in the elderly. If you are not sure whether your sleep problems are caused by a sleep disorder, it is better to consult a doctor.

Some of the symptoms of a sleep disorder are:

  • You have trouble falling asleep - it takes you more than 30 minutes after you go to bed to fall asleep;

  • You wake up repeatedly during the night;

  • You wake up too early in the morning;

  • You are sleepy all day;

  • You snore loudly or stop breathing during sleep, with the feeling that you are suffocating or suffocating;

  • You are constantly unable to fall asleep.

The myth that older people need less sleep is just that – just a myth. In reality, as we age we need just as much sleep as we did when we were younger, but the changes that occur in our bodies can affect sleep and make it a little more difficult.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Even if you're not as energetic as you used to be, it's entirely possible to sleep great if you take a little extra care of yourself. Try some of Dr. Breus's tips and you may find yourself sleeping like a baby well into your golden years.

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