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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

We all feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. All adults, including seniors, need 7 to 9 hours of pillow time to feel healthy and alert the next day. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep can lead to health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, according to the National Institute on Aging. Sleepless nights are also linked to forgetfulness, memory problems and an increased risk of falls and accidents, says the NIA.

Some medications, aches and pains from conditions like arthritis or other physical ailments, and conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnea and movement disorders like restless leg syndrome could be the reason you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Check with your health care provider if your sleep difficulties persist for more than a few days, as sleep-related conditions are treatable.

Almost everyone has periods when they find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. These tips from the NIA and other sleep experts can help you establish healthy habits so you nod off easily, get the sleep you need, and wake up ready to take on the world!

  • Establish a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on the weekends.
  • Relax before you hit the sack. Low lighting, listening to music, reading a book or magazine, doing a crossword puzzle, taking a warm bath, and meditating or deep breathing can help you wind down and get ready to sleep.
  • Stow the electronics. Banish cell phones, computers and televisions from the bedroom as the light they emit disturbs sleep. And save disturbing television shows or movies, like horror movies, for earlier in the evening if these make you anxious.
  • Exercise. Exercise each day can help you sleep better, but don’t exercise within three hours of your bedtime.
  • Cat naps. A nap can be a quick pick-me-up, but limit your napping to about 30 minutes and avoid long naps in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat light. Eating a heavy or spicy meal late in the day can cause indigestion and discomfort and make it harder for you to sleep. This old adage is still good advice: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper.
  • Ditch the caffeine. Caffeine is often the culprit in sleep problems. Limit your caffeine intake from coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate late in the day.
  • Avoid alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol late in the day can make it difficult to sleep.
  • Bedroom etiquette. Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Determine a comfortable temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Invest in room darkening shades or curtains if a completely dark room helps you sleep better. Sound machines, ear plugs and sleep masks can be useful in getting a good night’s sleep.
  • No smoking. We can’t emphasize this enough — NEVER smoke in bed. It’s a safety hazard.
  • Safe sleep. If you usually wake up during the night to use the bathroom, keep the floor near your bed and the pathway to the bathroom clear of cords, clutter and area rugs. Have a lamp within reach and a nightlight in the bathroom so you don’t stumble around in the dark.

Developing healthy sleep habits can help you sleep better and feel better, but remember to consult your health care provider if sleep problems continue.

Sweet dreams!

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