Can't sleep a wink?

It's estimated that about one-half of all seniors have some sleep problems. As we age, we tend to have more "fragile" sleep, meaning we're more easily awakened, and deep sleep stages get shorter. Some of these sleep changes are hormonal, but various illnesses, pain, psychiatric conditions, and medications can also interfere with rest.

Whatever the reason, being deprived of sleep can leave you tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate. It can also cause headaches, memory troubles, and accidents. On the other hand, we generally need less sleep as we get older, so if you feel rested and refreshed in the morning, don't feel drowsy during the day, and don't need long naps, you don't have anything to worry about.

It's easier to get a good night's sleep if you try the following:

  • Keep a regular sleep and wake schedule even if it is the weekend. Maintaining proper sleeping patterns can help your body adapt and fall asleep easier.
  • Don't have drinks with alcohol or caffeine near bedtime. Alcohol may put you to sleep at first, but you'll get less deep sleep and may wake up more often later.
  • Avoid having a big meal less than 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking extra fluids at least 2 hours before bedtime, to keep from waking up at night to go to the washroom.
  • Don't smoke since nicotine can keep you awake (it's a stimulant).
  • Try not to worry about things when it's time to sleep – they can wait until tomorrow. If you simply can't put them out of your mind, try writing out your concerns to help put them aside until daylight.
  • Avoid looking at light-emitting screens like laptops, smartphones, TVs or tablets in the hours before bedtime – keep the bed for sleeping.
  • Relax before going to bed by doing deep breathing exercises, drinking warm milk, or taking a warm bath.
  • If you can't get to sleep, try not to watch the clock. Instead, get out of bed and meditate or read until you feel tired.

If your sleep troubles last over a month or disrupt day-to-day life, don't suffer in silence – ask your doctor for help.

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