If you’ve noticed that you have had problems getting — and staying — asleep ever since you retired, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women age 65 and older take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, and once they eventually do fall asleep, they sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night.
But you still need the same amount of sleep per night as everyone else: about seven to nine hours. Excessive daytime sleepiness isn’t the only problem that can result from poor sleep quality at night. It can also lead to depression, attention and memory problems, and nighttime falls and contribute to even more serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight problems.
One of the reasons your sleep quality changes as you age is because your body produces less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Other common causes of sleep problems in older adults include poor sleep habits or bedroom environment, medical or psychiatric problems, medications, stress, and lack of exercise.
Fortunately, poor sleep doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, here are three tips for improving your sleep habits.
Keep Your Body Moving
Getting regular exercise (at least three hours before your bedtime) promotes more restful sleep, but even if it tuckers you out, avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Whether you take a warm bath, listen to soothing music or practice deep breathing, develop a relaxing bedtime ritual, and try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
Make Your Bedroom a Sleep-only Zone
Leave your iPad or Kindle in the living room. Light from backlit devices makes it difficult to fall asleep. Plus, it also helps your brain slow down when you only use your bedroom for sleep.
If you try a few of these tips and you still are struggling to fall asleep, talk to your doctor. You might be taking medications that keep you awake at night, or you might have a sleep problem that requires further treatment.