How to Sleep Better as You Get Older

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 05, 2022
3 min read

As the number of candles on your birthday cake grows, you might notice that you wake up earlier or throughout the night. You may find that you get fewer hours of shut-eye, or you fall asleep during the day.

Rest assured, there are things you can do to get the sleep you need.

There's no “right” amount of sleep. What you consider a good amount can be entirely different than what your neighbor needs. Still, experts recommend adults get 7 to 9 hours every night.

If you get fewer Zzz's than you did when you were younger, but you still feel rested and energetic, you might simply need less sleep than you used to.

But if you feel rundown because of it, here are some ways to get better rest.

Stick to a regular bedtime. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body will get used to the routine.

Take a warm bath. When you get out of the tub, the drop in body temperature may help you feel tired. It can also help you relax and slow down, so you’re more ready to go to bed.

Take time to calm down before you turn out the lights. Turn off your electronic devices and TV an hour before bed. You can read a book, listen to music -- whatever helps you unwind.

Make the bedroom a sleep zone. If you're still awake 20 minutes after you hit the sack, get up. Get back in bed only when you feel tired enough. Train yourself to think of the bed as a place for sleeping only.

Avoid afternoon naps. If you sleep during the day, you're more likely to stay awake at night.

Don't drink alcohol close to bedtime. Even small amounts can make it harder to stay asleep. It can make you wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of the booze have worn off.

Drink less fluids at night. Trips to the bathroom break up your sleep.

Wear yourself out.Exercise at regular times each day, but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.

Get some sun. Make an effort to get outside in the sunlight each day. It'll let your body know when it’s time to be awake, and when it’s not. But do wear sunscreen.

If you still can’t sleep, your doctor may be able to help. They can see if you might have a condition that's causing you to stay awake. They can also check any medications you're taking to see if they're interfering with your Zzz's. They can refer you to a sleep specialist, too.

If you figure out what's keeping you up at night, you can tackle the issue and sleep better.

Illnesses and conditions. You may have a medical condition that's affecting your rest. Ailments like arthritis, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome can all make sleep a challenge. Treatment to help your condition may help you get some shut-eye.

Medications. Some can keep you awake at night. Make sure your doctor knows about all the medications you take. They may suggest you adjust when to take it or how much you take. They may even be able to change your medication to something that won't affect your slumber.

Change. The older you get, the more likely you are to have some major transitions in your life. Things like illness, financial problems, or the death of a loved one cause stress, and that can make it hard to sleep. Talk to your family or meet with a counselor to find ways to manage your stress.

Retirement. You might have a lot more downtime and be less active during the day. That can throw off your sleep-wake schedule. So try to keep your body and mind moving: You could volunteer, hit the gym, learn a new skill, spend time with friends and family -- the point is, stay active.