For many people, as they get older getting the proper amount of sleep just doesn’t seem possible. If you have trouble falling asleep every night or a few times in a week, you’re not alone. Scientific research shows that over 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of chronic long-term sleeping disorder.

There are many contributing factors, some short-term and many that lead to nightly insomnia. As a result, some people try to self-medicate with pills or alcohol and this can lead to a life of dependency and a future stay at an inpatient drug rehab center.

How much sleep do you need?

The average person requires anywhere from seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. When your body doesn’t get the amount it needs you wake up tired. This feeling will travel with you throughout the rest of your day. As a result, your memories from the prior day can become vague and your concentration levels challenged. This can affect your ability to drive, operate machinery and perform at your best at work.

Sleep patterns

Don’t you wish you could go back to your teens when going to bed actually meant falling asleep in minutes? If you go to bed and spend hours each night trying to fall asleep, it may be time to change up your bedtime routine. When you’re young you’re active throughout the day and by the time you head off to bed, you’re exhausted. So what changes happen that make it difficult to sleep when you are older?

First, stress can take a toll on not only your body but also your mind. If you worry about final exams, bills or your job, any one of these things can keep you up at night. Clear your mind before you head off to bed. Exercise a few hours prior to bedtime can actually release the stress and replace it with good feelings that relax you. For others establishing a bedtime routine that includes a warm bath just prior to bed, relaxes the body and helps them fall asleep faster. And, yet others believe that a glass of warm milk does the trick.

What to eliminate hours before bedtime?

Many people already know not to drink a cup of coffee before bed and expect to climb in the sack and catch some zzzs. But there are other things that maybe you’re not aware of like exercise. While exercise helps to release endorphins which make you feel good, exercise also energizes you, which is the last thing you want right before bedtime. Instead, get in your exercise a few hours before bedtime and then take a hot bath to relax the muscles. Spicy foods can also prevent you from acquiring a good night’s sleep. When you eat these foods late at night you often get heartburn shortly after. And, once you lie down the heartburn worsens, keeping you awake longer.

Create an environment for sleeping

Going to bed should mean going to sleep. If you spend hours trying to fall asleep you may be able to achieve a good night’s sleep by making a few simple changes to the environment in your bedroom. In order to sleep you need a dark room. If you fall asleep with the television on, turn it off. Not only will the noise keep you up, but the flickering light from dark to bright on the screen will also prevent solid sleep. If you have a street light that shines in your window, cover it up with a black-out curtain. Some people can’t sleep because it’s too quiet so they use a fan to create white noise; this can actually soothe you off to sleep because it’s a steady sound. The point is to eliminate the distractions in the room.

Seniors and the difficulty of sleeping more than five or six hours

For many seniors, as they get older they find that acquiring seven or eight hours of sleep just isn’t possible and they start taking naps. These naps are actually most of the problem. In order to break the cycle of taking a two-hour nap each day you need to stay up regardless of how tired you may feel. A few days of doing this and you’ll find that you’re able to fall asleep and stay asleep. For other seniors, it’s their retirement that caused their lack of sleep. The way to get back your good sleeping habits is to establish a routine. Just like your former work week, set an alarm and get up the same time each day.


talkhealth contributors

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