En Español | Most of us know how important sleep is to our health and well-being, but many of us struggle with understanding why our bodies don’t cooperate with us. When it comes to aging and sleep, it’s important to know that as we age our sleep patterns naturally change. We often go to bed and wake up earlier. However, just because our sleep patterns change, doesn’t mean we should experience excessive fatigue or symptoms of insomnia. In cases like this, we often turn to medication sleep aids, but these are only effective for short-term use and do not promote the deep sleep that our bodies need each night.
Fortunately, there are many holistic strategies we can incorporate into our lives to get a good night’s rest. We call these strategies “Sleep Hygiene.” Here are a few options that we recommend:
1. Create a sleep schedule.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Creating and maintaining a sleep schedule will help you fall asleep quicker and wake up more easily. It is the cornerstone of good sleep hygiene.
2. Create a comfortable sleep environment.
Background noise and light can sometimes be comforting but often result in us getting poorer quality sleep and waking up more frequently. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet, and dark. Avoid watching TV right before bed and make sure your TV is turned off during the hours that you sleep.
3. Avoid using stimulants or depressants before bedtime.
Things like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can act like both stimulants (a substance that raises levels of physiological or nervous activity in the body) and depressants (a substance that slows the activity of the nervous system; sedative). These substances can impact our sleeping ability, resulting in less quality sleep and waking up groggy.
4. Increase physical activity during the day.
More activity during the day means that your body is ready for recovery during the night. Try increasing the number of steps you take during the day or attending a group activity class to get your heart rate up. This will help you drift away to sleep more quickly. Not to mention, this helps overall health and well-being, of course.
5. Practice relaxation strategies.
Before bedtime, do something relaxing–read, take a bath, or meditate. This is not only a great way to prepare for a good night’s sleep but also promotes positive mental health.
6. Talk to your doctor.
If you have questions about your sleep habits or think you have a problem with sleep, there are many more sleep hygiene strategies to learn about that your primary care doctor can share with you.
These sleep hygiene strategies are not quick fixes; they can take time to adjust to and need to be done routinely to work well. Try one or two of them and see how they work with your lifestyle and adjust as you see fit. When it comes to aging and sleep, sleep health becomes an increasingly important part of our quality of life and should be taken seriously. It’s important to know that if you have any difficulties sleeping, you have options, and you’re not alone in this. Strike up a conversation with family and friends, and consider talking with your primary care doctor if you have questions or concerns.