It seems to happen overnight. We get to a certain age, and all of a sudden waking up in the morning just doesn’t feel the same.
Suddenly, we’re waking up feeling stiff…aching…and not rested at ALL!
Sure, we’ve all experienced this at times when we were younger, too. However, it was typically after a day of high physical activity (doing yard work, moving furniture, cleaning the garage, etc.). Those stiff and achy mornings were earned. We like to call it “accomplished discomfort.”
Unfortunately, our current discomforts usually aren’t caused by accomplishment…they’re just another sign of aging. But even with old age, we’re still capable of finding; being; and creating our best selves so that we can thrive!
Luckily, there are things seniors can (and should) do to practice better sleeping habits and achieve a more restful sleep. Here are 5 tips to get a good night’s rest and enjoy all the health benefits that sleep has to offer.
1. Eat well, sleep well
Diet and sleep go hand-in-hand. Eat as healthy as you can and reduce your inflammatory food intake. However, try abstaining from eating within 3 hours of bedtime. If you do feel hungry before bed, opt for a lean protein in lieu of fatty, or sugary meals which will spike your blood sugar throughout the night, resulting in a bad night’s sleep.
2. Hydrate (just not before bed)
As you’ve grown older, have you found yourself needing to use the restroom multiple times throughout the night? If you like that “Highball” or “Nightcap” before bed, there’s a good chance that you have very interrupted sleep. By avoiding drinking 4 hours prior to turning in, you’ll greatly reduce your nightly bathroom trips. Alcohol is another enemy of quality sleep. It may help you get to sleep, but it may also cause multiple interruptions during the night.
3. Relax into a nightly routine
Did you know that warm showers/baths can raise your core temperature and trigger the proper chemistry for sleep? Relax your muscles and reduce any physical tension with a warm bath before bed. Try adding one cup of Epsom salt or one cup of baking soda to your bath, and you’ll gain amazing alkaline balancing effects to help you fall to sleep while relaxing your aches and pains.
Alternatively, you can use a heating pad or warm water bottle and place it right on your stomach or drink hot herbal tea. Both of these techniques have the same affects to help relax your body and mind. Other tools to aid relaxation are playing soft music or a guided imagery CD.
4. Make sleep a Priority
Our lives are infiltrated with stimuli, and our brains are often stimulated until the moment we go to bed. Often, this stimulation comes from some form of a screen: answering late emails, surfing the internet, watching an evening program on the television.
Many of us are unaware, but screen time actually disrupts our sleep in a big way because of something called “Blue Light”: which is the light emitted from our computers and TV’s. If you need to be in front of those screens, it’s helpful to turn them off 2-3 hours prior to getting into bed at night. Additionally, you can try out some Blue Light blocking glasses (available through Amazon). They fit right over your regular glasses and can make a huge difference in your sleep quality.
Our Biological Clocks (Circadian Rhythm) are set when we’re born, but they can be altered. For people who have spent their lives working night shift, their rhythm has been reset to match their schedule. Interestingly, it has been found that many folks with Dementia who have worked night shift do much better staying on that cycle. However, that is difficult for most families.
Either way, research and science is showing us not to keep our cell phones within 3 feet of our person while sleeping, due the “alteration in the system of certain self–regulating processes, such as your biological clock or cardiac rhythms”. In other words, it destroys your natural sleep rhythm, setting you up for a restless night.
5. Make friends with supplements that aid your body in proper sleep and reverse those achy joints.
There are many supplements and herbs that can be helpful in getting more shuteye — try calcium, GABA, 5-HTP, Melatonin, Magnolia, or try 200mg-400 mg of magnesium citrate before bed to relax your muscles and nervous system. If you’re considering adding supplements to your sleep habits, I recommend discussing your best options with your primary care physician first.
Sleep problems are treatable. You should never rely on pharmaceuticals until you’ve tried alternative methods and your doctor agrees with proper medication. Sleep medications can have many side effects, and with us seniors, it takes longer for them to leave our system — causing many folks to fall or have increased brain fog.
Different things work for different people. Most of all, don’t anguish over a lost night’s sleep. We all have one every now and then. In fact, it’s been proven through psychology research that no matter what kind of sleep you’ve had, if you tell yourself in the morning that you feel great, you will. The power of your mindset!