Six tips to help you sleep like a pro
Older people need just as much sleep as the young, so here’s a guide to help you catch those forty winks
For most ageing people, the nightly routine of trying to nod off then waking up far too early will be a familiar one. You might have put it down to an annoying side-effect of ageing and assumed you need less sleep. Older people do need as much shut-eye as the young but changes to the brain stop them from achieving deep, refreshing sleep.
While you may never sleep like a teenager again, here’s how to get more kip as you get older.
Empty your bladder
As we age, we produce less of an anti-diuretic hormone that stops the kidneys making as much urine. As a result, we may develop nocturia, the need to go to the bathroom several times during the night. Avoid drinking fluids two hours before bedtime and use the doublevoiding technique. “It means emptying the bladder twice by urinating a second time 10 to 15 minutes after the first time,” says Prof Merlin Thomas, author of Understanding Type 2 Diabetes. Cutting back on salt to no more than eight grams a day also reduces bathroom visits, Japanese researchers found.
Older adults produce less melatonin (the sleep hormone), so anything you can do to increase its natural production will help. Melatonin at night is produced after light exposure in the day so getting out in bright sunlight can increase melatonin concentration. Light therapy may also help.
Calm your mind
Soothing night-time rituals like taking a bath can relax your body — but you also need to calm your mind. If you’re flexible, try some yoga before bed. Lie on the floor bringing your legs and buttocks up against the wall. This pose calms the mind. Or close your eyes and look up to your “third eye” — the point between your eyebrows. This slows active brainwaves to more relaxed ones.
Exercise between 4 to 7 pm
Moderate exercise can help you sleep. It’s one of the best ‘sleepmedicines’ around. But like all medicines, there is a right and wrong way to use it. The timing can make a big difference. Exercise in the morning is unlikely to help, and exercise too close to bedtime is likely to cause problems. Try taking 20-30 minutes of exercise moderate for you, between 4 pm and 7 pm. Walking or gardening will also do.
The cave principle is to keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark. Try to aim for a temperature that’s thermally neutral so your body doesn’t shiver or sweat to keep warm or cool — 18.5 C to 20 C is ideal. It’s worth thinking about your feet. Good blood flow contributes to warm feet, which helps sleep, so wear thermal socks if your feet feel the chill.
About 20 per cent of light gets through eyelids, so unless you have no problem sleeping in a lighter room, you need to keep your bedroom as dark as you can. Invest in good quality lined curtains or blackout blinds.
Be anti-social media
A study by a bedmaker brand found that 15 per cent of 50-64-year-olds admitted to waking up to check social media. It’s proven the blue light from phones and tablets wakes up the brain. So social media checks are a recipe for disaster. Avoid temptation by leaving gadgets out of the bedroom.
— Daily Mirror