When it comes to healthy living, eating well and regular exercise are often front of mind. But an equally important (and often overlooked) essential habit is to get enough sleep.
If you’re over 55, getting sufficient restful sleep can be a daily challenge. This can be due to the normal effects of ageing, however, there may be underlying causes that are having an impact too.
While the optimum amount of sleep required does vary between individuals, the Sleep Health Foundation recommends that for most people between seven to nine hours is ideal. So, if lack of sleep is having a negative impact on your mental state and energy levels, read on to learn some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep in retirement.
Why is Sleep Challenging for Older Adults?
As you age, changes to your body and lifestyle can affect your sleep patterns. Your body makes less melatonin (the hormone produced at night to promote sleep), which can make it harder to drift off. Once asleep, you may wake more often, for a range of reasons from hot flushes and midnight toilet visits, to more serious health concerns such as arthritis, asthma, indigestion or osteoporosis. Anxiety and depressions can also make sleep hard to come by, as can the presence of a disorder such as sleep apnoea.
If you’re unsure what exactly is causing your sleep problems or are worried it could be due to an illness or disorder, a visit to your GP is a must. They can help you get to the bottom of it and rectify or treat the underlying issues.
What Can You Do to Help Yourself?
For many of us, the problem often lies with poor ‘sleep hygiene’. If you are guilty of this, there are some simple but effective ways you can make a positive difference. Here are some ideas:
- Stick to a regular time for going to bed and getting up. Keeping regular hours for when you go to bed and rise will help your body clock to settle into a routine and improve your natural sleep-wake rhythm. Try not to go to bed too early or late and set your alarm for the morning if needed to avoid oversleeping. You may need to experiment a little to find the amount of sleep that is just right. If you’re in the habit of staying up late, using an alarm to remind you to go to bed can also be useful.
- Avoid any screen time before bed. This includes TV, tablets, laptops and mobile phones. The blue light of screens can mess with your body’s natural rhythms which makes it harder to get to sleep. In the hour or so before bedtime, try reading or listening to an audio book or podcast instead as this is a far better way to unwind.
- Watch your daytime naps. Many older people enjoy a short nap during the day, as this can be a good way to top up on your sleep if you’re not getting enough at night. However, keep an eye on the length of your naps to avoid overdoing it. Also, make sure you wake before 4pm, so you don’t disrupt your nightly rest.
- Make time for some regular exercise. Staying active and exercising regularly has so many benefits, including helping you achieve a good night sleep. Find a range of activities you enjoy and aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. This could include walking, swimming, dancing, gardening or anything else that gets you up and going.
- Be mindful and meditate. Like exercise, meditation is great for both the mind and the body. If you’re finding it hard to drift off, listening to a guided meditation can really help. Try a free app like Smiling Mind or borrow a CD from the library and give it a go.
The Right Amount of Restful Sleep Can Change Your Life
If you’re lacking sleep on a regular basis it affects your mood, energy levels, wellbeing and health. This can really bring you down and stop you from making the most of your retirement years.
Trying the above tips at home can make a big difference. But be sure to see your GP to rule out any underlying issues if you have concerns.
Because getting enough shut-eye is an essential step towards living a happier and healthier life!
Over to You
Do you have a good sleep tip that we’ve missed that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Simply post a comment below.