Meeting Your Sleep Need
For older people with health problems, napping during the day may be the only way to get enough sleep because their sleep at night may be disrupted. For healthy older adults, napping isn’t a great idea. It might make falling asleep or staying asleep at night more difficult.
Vitiello says people assume all older people nap because of their age. “While napping does increase with age, it never penetrates more than one third of the population – even out into the 80s,” he says.
If you have a medical condition and have trouble sleeping, tell your doctor. Your doctor can determine whether you have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, or if your health condition or other medical treatment is affecting your sleep. For example, if one of your medications makes you sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about changing the time you take it. Or ask if there’s a different medication that would work. (Never change your medication without talking to your doctor.)
Know the Basics
At any age, good sleep habits are important for quality sleep. These include sticking to a regular bedtime, having little or no caffeine, and sleeping in a cool, dark, comfortable room.
“Probably around age 60 or so, adults really need to be careful about having good sleep hygiene and watching side effects of medication, what they’re eating and drinking in terms of stimulating beverages or foods,” Arand says.
Arand and Vitiello agree that staying physically and mentally active is vital for a good night’s sleep. “After the age of 40, or especially after the age of 60, individuals who are very physically active can tend to sleep deeper and have better quality sleep at night than individuals who may not be very active,” Arand says.
Kick Insomnia Out of Bed
If you’ve had difficulty sleeping for more than a month, the problem has become chronic. Be sure to tell your doctor, who may refer you to a sleep clinic. If you have insomnia, you need to act. It usually doesn’t go away on its own.
You may not have realized all the changes that can affect your sleep. Now that you know what to expect, you can work on getting the best sleep possible.