If you’re like most health-conscious older adults, you already do a lot to improve your health and wellness. You probably watch what you eat and make sure you participate in enough physical activity. You go to the doctor on schedule and diligently take your medication when needed. While all of these practices are important, there’s one big element of a healthy and happy lifestyle you might be neglecting: getting enough sleep.
The large majority of American adults aren’t getting the recommended minimum of eight hours of sleep a night. Even worse? Research shows that not only are Americans not getting enough sleep, they’re also acquiring “sleep debts” that make catching up on sleep difficult.
If you’ve ever heard someone claim they “function well” on very little sleep, chances are they don’t know their body as well as they think they do. Psychologist David Dinges believes that very few people can actually survive healthily on a schedule of sleep deprivation—he estimates this is true for maybe only one person in every thousand people.
The consequences of sleep deprivation go far beyond increased yawning. In addition to putting yourself at a greater risk for car crashes and other accidents, failing to get enough sleep could actually be shortening your lifespan.
So, what can you do to get past your sleep debt and make catching extra ZZZ's part of your routine? Here are a few tips.
3 Tips for Getting More Quality Sleep
1. Get in Bed Before You’re Tired
By the time you begin yawning and rubbing your eyes, your body is already nearing a state of exhaustion. Instead of waiting to feel tired, make it a goal to get in bed at the same time every night. Read a book, spend time with your partner, or simply reflect on your day. Unwinding in bed before you are overtired allows your body to relax, but fall asleep at a decent hour.
2. Avoid Electronic Devices For At Least an Hour Before Bed
Sitting in front of the television, looking at your computer, or checking your cell phone can all have negative affects on your quality of sleep. The “blue light” behind screens makes it more difficult to fall asleep, and the stimulating effect of electronics can cause you to stay up much later than you intended. Try powering down your electronics for at least an hour before you plan to sleep and find other relaxing ways to spend your evening.
3. Create a Positive Sleep Environment
Whether you need blackout curtains, earplugs, a sleep mask, extra pillows, or the air conditioning turned down a few degrees, figure out what type of environment your body prefers to sleep in and recreate it nightly. When you create a positive sleep environment to your preferences, you give your body the best chance at a night of quality sleep.
Getting enough sleep is important for every aspect of your day, so don’t be afraid to prioritize a little extra shut eye if you notice yourself getting into a deprivation cycle. Think of sleep as medication for your whole body—you want to make sure you’re getting the right dose.
A well-rested mind is also important for managing your medications. Check out our free eBook on medication management to learn more tips.