10 Sleep Tips for Seniors

Don’t take sleep woes lying down! Here are 10 ways to overcome age-related sleep problems.

If sleep is becoming more difficult for you as you get older, try these steps:

1. Talk to your doctor. If you have a health condition that is making it difficult for you to sleep, such as severe arthritis, chronic pain, or obstructive sleep apnea, getting it treated may help you sleep better.

2. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Gehrman recommends avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, since these substances can interfere with your sleep patterns. As a rule, you should avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon.

3. Set a sleep schedule. “If you have a regular bedtime and a regular wake time, then you tend to promote sleepiness at night and alertness during the day because you are promoting your body rhythms,” says Gehrman.

4. Skip naps. If you have trouble sleeping at night, napping during the day can aggravate insomnia. Skipping your nap can make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

5. Keep a journal. Gehrman recommends writing down your problems and their solutions during the day. “By doing that, you tend to lift them off your shoulders so your mind doesn’t churn over the problems at night,” he says.

6. Exercise at least four hours before bedtime. “Exercise is good for sleep, but only if it is done at the right time,” says Gehrman. Exercising too close to bedtime can cause a rise in your body temperature that makes it difficult to fall asleep.

7. Try relaxation exercises. Learning to relax before bedtime can help you sleep better, so consider trying progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, or meditation before bed.

8. Remove your clock. Gehrman says that people who have sleep performance anxiety should not keep a clock in their bedroom. “The clock is putting time pressure on you,” he says.

9. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. If you eat, read, or watch TV in bed, you begin to associate your bed with activities other than sleep.

10. Don’t lie awake in bed. “Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep,” says Gehrman. “Do something boring like read the phone book, and then go back to the bed only when you get drowsy.”

Following these golden rules for getting better sleep should leave you feeling more rested as you wake up to greet each new day.

By Krisha McCoy, MS – Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH