It’s 1 a.m. and you are wide awake. When you have been looking forward to a good night’s sleep, finding yourself awake in the middle of the night can be frustrating. Not getting the sleep you need — and even having poor quality sleep — can hurt your health.
And as we age, our sleep needs change. Older adults need about as much sleep as younger adults — between seven to nine hours a night — but often don’t get that much due to issues like trouble falling and staying asleep. Keep in mind that similar to falls or memory problems, sleep issues are not a normal part of the aging process.
If you find yourself awake in the wee hours of the morning, resist the urge to reach for a sleep aid. Instead, consider these sleep quality tips.
1. Stick to a schedule:
Our bodies like routine and sleep is no different. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times — even on weekends or vacations. A regular sleep schedule helps keep you in sync with your body’s circadian clock.
2. Reduce or eliminate daytime naps:
Napping too much during the day can hurt your nighttime sleep.
3. Ditch the caffeine:
This stimulating substance is found in more than just coffee. Stop consuming caffeinated products — tea, chocolate, soda, energy drinks and even some pain relievers — four to six hours before you head to bed. If you smoke, try to avoid using tobacco products too close to bedtime, as these can also have a stimulating effect.
4. Give yourself 20 minutes:
If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and do a relaxing activity like reading, listening to music or meditating until you are tired. This rule also applies if you wake in the middle of the night. Try your best not to watch the clock as you’re attempting to drift off. Doing so can increase your stress, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Instead, turn the clock’s face away from you.
5. Create — and stick to — a bedtime routine:
Bedtime routines aren’t just useful for little ones—they also let our bodies know it’s time to wind down for the day. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, knitting or listening to music can all help you relax. And though it may be tempting, try to avoid using your tablet, computer or watching TV as part of your bedtime routine. The light emitted from these devices can interfere with sleep.
We all have the occasional sleepless night, but if you’ve tried the above tips and still find you have trouble sleeping after a few weeks, contact your doctor.