Coffee cup on nightstand.

10 Better Sleep Tips for Older Adults

by Dawn Kepler, Project Administrator

Coffee cup on nightstand.May is Better Sleep Month and brings awareness to the health benefits of sleep. Adults over age 65 typically require less sleep. Although 7-8 hours is recommended for those over 65, 5-6 hours may be an appropriate amount of sleep. Sleep affects mood, attention, memory, sleepiness, falls, and quality of life.

Many older adults sleep less than needed, have greater difficulty falling asleep, sleep less deeply, and wake up more frequently. A few of the reasons older adults may not get enough sleep include taking naps during the day, feeling sick or in pain, and side effects from some medications. Insomnia, sleep apnea, movement disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease also contribute to sleep problems. Below are 10 tips for sleeping better.

  1. Consistent routines – Keep regular sleep and wake times, making time to relax at night before going to bed.
  2. Sleep ambiance – Bedrooms should be used only for sleeping, kept dark and quiet, and avoid extreme room temperatures. If awake after 20 minutes and not drowsy, get out of bed and then return when you begin to feel sleepy.
  3. Comfort – Mattresses, pillows, and blankets should fit each individual’s comfort preferences.
  4. Exercise – Maintain a consistent exercise routine, avoiding 3 hours before bedtime.
  5. Outdoors – Spend time outside and in the sunlight every day.
  6. Eating – A small evening snack can help, but larger meals near bedtime can hinder sleep.
  7. Drinking – Reducing beverage consumption in the evening can prevent waking up for bathroom breaks at night.
  8. Alcohol – Consuming alcoholic beverages does not help with sleep and can actually make it difficult to stay asleep.
  9. Caffeine – Caffeinated beverages consumed in the afternoon/evening can prevent sleep, including “coffee, tea, soda, and hot chocolate.”
  10. Sleeping with a partner – Build a pillow barrier if tossing and turning is an issue; use sleep earplugs if snoring is the problem; and cover up with separate bedspreads if you fight over the blankets. 1 in 4 married couples report sleeping better in separate beds, but studies have shown that the benefits of sleeping together are greater than any costs associated with sleeping with a partner.

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