How to Improve Sleep

Older woman with short hair lying in bed with a smile on her face after having a restful night of sleep.

Many older adults report that they are not getting a restful night of sleep each night. Sleep is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for older adults to help prevent cognitive decline. So how can adults obtain restful sleep without the use of medication or over-the-counter drugs? A bedtime routine is one great way to promote restful sleep. Read on for several more tips.

Set a Sleep Schedule

Following a sleep schedule that consists of waking up and going to bed at the same time each morning and night is a great way to achieve a consistent circadian rhythm and signal your body when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

Skip the Naps

If you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night, take a look at your nap schedule. Are you taking several naps throughout the day? Are you taking hours-long naps? Are you taking a nap just a couple hours before bed? There’s nothing wrong with a quick, 30-minute power nap during the day to get you by, but if napping begins to affect your sleep at night, it may be time to cut them out for more restful sleep.

Find a Comfortable Temperature and Noise Level

Trying to sleep when your bedroom is not a comfortable temperature can feel next to impossible. Find a temperature that feels right for you, and set your thermostat to that precise temperature every night. You’ll also want something to control noise level, whether that means you wear earplugs or you have a sound machine that emits the sound of waves or a rainstorm.

Be Mindful of your Meals

Eating a large meal close to bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to eat your final meal several hours before bedtime to give your body time to digest. Going to bed too soon after eating can increase the likelihood of reflux or heartburn, which can keep you awake. Try to avoid foods that may keep you awake, especially ones that contain caffeine, and eat foods that have small amounts of melatonin to help you have a restful night of sleep.

Develop a Bedtime Routine

A bedtime routine is one of the best ways you can set yourself up for a restful night of sleep. Your routine should take place in the 30 to 60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. You should perform the routine in the same order each night to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Everyone follows a different routine, but some of the activities you can do include taking a warm bath, reading, light journaling, meditating, gentle stretching, and listening to relaxing music. This is also a good time to prep your bedroom for sleep: set the room to your favorite temperature, turn on your sound machine, diffuse some oils, and grab your favorite blankets and pillows. You should have your electronic devices set aside during this time. The blue light that is emitted can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.

If you still find that you are unable to fall asleep after following all the practices above, you can do a few things to help yourself fall asleep, like meditating, slowly counting, playing mental games, or meditating and focusing on slowly relaxing each part of your body.

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