Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that make sleeping well on a regular basis more likely (e.g., not eating dinner in bed). As we get older, our sleep patterns change as part of the normal aging process, though our need for quality sleep does not. Chronic sleep disturbance can result in a number of physical and mental health consequences. While achieving a restful night of sleep may seem like a fantasy for those of us who experience occasional or chronic sleep problems, evidence suggests that there are a number of non-pharmacological, lifestyle behaviors that can promote better sleep.
Below we have compiled 10 of the top tips for achieving a more satisfying night of sleep:
- Ban unnecessary bedroom light. Even the tiny flicker of light that a cell phone or digital clock may emit can disrupt sleep. Experts recommend turning off TVs, computers and any other devices at least one hour before it's time to sleep. If you have a device that you can't fully turn off, try covering it with a blanket so the light is hidden.
- Break the napping habit. Taking a nap, especially within a five-hour window of your ideal bedtime, can exacerbate problems with achieving a restful night's sleep. If you do need some extra shuteye during the day, keep it to a brief 15-20 minute nap at least five hours before your bedtime.
- Train your body's natural clock. Sleep experts recommend going to sleep and rising at the same times every day (yes, that includes weekends!) to set a sleep-wake rhythm.
- Bask in some morning light. If you feel groggy in the mornings or have a difficult time waking up when you would like to, try getting out in bright, natural light for 5-20 minutes almost immediately after you rise. This is one of the single most impactful sleep hygiene changes for many adults.
- Skip the afternoon macchiato. For most adults, some morning caffeine in the form of tea or coffee will not significantly disrupt their sleep-wake cycle. However, having caffeine (even in the form of chocolate, some pain relievers, or sodas) later in the day can wreak havoc on sleep patterns.
- Exercise during the day and relax your mind/body at night. Consistent exercise during the day, ideally at least four hours before your bedtime, coupled with a gentle relaxation exercise such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation at night, can be a great formula for a good night of sleep.
- Cut back on nighttime liquids. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, try to make it a habit to avoid liquids within a two-hour window of your ideal bedtime. If you do have to use the restroom at night, keep a nightlight on in the bathroom to avoid having to turn on too many bright lights.
- Prep your surroundings when it's nearing bedtime. If falling asleep is a challenge, try prepping your body a few hours before you'd like to sleep by dimming lights and limiting exposure to stressful topics that may be on the news or online.
- Invest in some white noise. If you live in an area where noise is an issue (e.g., a loud neighborhood dog), consider investing in a white noise generator or even a fan to drown out the distractors. Ear plugs can also be helpful.
- Don't worry about not sleeping! This may be easier said than done, but ruminating about not sleeping can actually disturb sleep patterns, which then feeds the worry, creating a vicious cycle of not sleeping and worrying about not sleeping. If you find yourself tossing and turning, consider getting out of bed, having a relaxing cup of chamomile tea in some dim light, and then getting back into bed when you're feeling more relaxed.
If you or a loved one has trouble sleeping, we suggest picking up a copy of the sixth book in our award-winning senior wellness series, The Senior Sleep Solution. The Senior Sleep Solution explores the common causes of chronic sleep disturbance and provides practical guidance for seniors and caregivers alike on improving sleep quality and reducing sleep disruption.Do you have any tips for getting a better night of sleep? Share them with us on our Facebook page!
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