Among the laundry list of things that happen as we age, we commonly assume that diminished quality of sleep is one of them. According to a recent study in the New York Times, the bottom line was surprising. Research has demonstrated that getting older was not the actual reason for poor sleep. Interestingly, it had more to do with an underlined illness.
Older adults are more susceptible to physical disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diabetes, renal failure, asthma, and immune complications that can affect sleep. Additionally, snoring can be a major contributor to waking up during the night. Snoring is often related to having sleep apnea and is commonly undiagnosed.
The good news is that there is hope for us. Although these illnesses are more prevalent as we get older, we are certainly not victims. If we choose to live responsibly-by incorporating proper diet, exercise, and stress management techniques, we can avoid a lot of unhappiness.
There are some things that you can do to help with sleep quality at any age.
- Exercise daily (preferably in the morning- not during the evening)
- Cut Caffeine- If you need a morning buzz, switch to Green Tea. It will still give you a nice “pick up” but won’t be as caffeinated as coffee. Do not have any after lunch time.
- Avoid alcohol- The effects of alcohol can cause insomnia. Even red wine (which makes you tired) can cause a hypoglycemic response- leading to waking several times during the night.
- Don’t watch TV or use your computer in bed- Train your body to recognize the bed for sleeping or sexual activity only. Doing other stimulating activities in bed will make it more difficult to peacefully unwind when it is time to retire for the evening.
- Eat an early dinner- Allowing adequate time to digest is very important. Having late dinners and coming straight home to bed may work socially, but can leave you with indigestion and very little sleep.
- Hold the nap- If you were up all night, refraining from a nap the next day will help you fall asleep at a more reasonable hour as well as work to reset your internal clock.
Supplements and herbal tea 1-3 hours before bed may be useful. For general relaxation- small doses of melatonin, l-theanine, calcium, magnesium, and inositol can be calming. Chamomile tea is also soothing. You will have even better results if taken along with a hot bath.