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The Sleep Challenges of Getting Older

These lifestyle changes can lead to more shut-eye later in life.

The later years of life bring welcomed life changes like retirement and grandchildren. Now as much as ever, you need energy to travel, explore, play, and socialize. That stamina starts with a good night’s sleep, but quality shut-eye can be elusive: Older people have been found to wake up three to four times each night on average and 44 percent experience insomnia a few nights a week. Luckily, adopting a few simple lifestyle changes could help you win back your sleep. Start with these tips:

  • Limit daytime naps. It can be tempting to sneak in a siesta, but if your nighttime sleep is suffering, it’s best to avoid sleeping too much during the day. In fact, the ideal nap length is just 20 minutes.
  • Get into a routine. Try to go to the bed and wake up at the same time daily. It’s also important to avoid stimulating activities (such as watching TV) before going to sleep. Aim to spend the hour before bed doing something relaxing, such as taking a bath or reading a book.
  • Fit in exercise. You don’t need to go to the gym, but doing something active during the day such as walking, swimming, or gardening can make it easier to fall asleep at night.
  • Learn how to manage stress. As you get older, you may face new, emotionally stressful issues, and this anxiety can make it more difficult to nod off. Finding ways to minimize this stress—whether it’s socializing with friends or talking with a therapist—can help restore a restful night.

If a lack of sleep is negatively affecting your life (or if you’re a caregiver to someone who is having trouble getting enough sleep), talk to a doctor. He or she may be able to determine if a sleep disorder, health condition, or even a medication could be to blame.