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Bad news: it’s difficult to get a good night’s rest as you age.
Good news: there are things you can do to sleep better.
Sleep is more fitful when you’re 40 and older. You’re more easily awakened by noises and your own aches and pains than when you’re younger, and certain foods, eating times and alcohol can impact sleep as we age. What’s more, recent studies have linked poor sleep to urinary tract issues, including urinary incontinence and nocturia (frequent bladder emptying throughout the night).
Risks of sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, insomnia and sleep apnea (a disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted multiple times while sleeping) also increase.
Whether sleep disorders, other health issues or dietary habits interfere with your ability to get slumber, a good night’s rest is essential for good health!
Sleep helps with:
- Memory, especially when you’re learning a new skill whether it’s Spanish or playing the guitar. You can reinforce memories or skills learned while you were awake, while you’re asleep (it’s called consolidation).
- Keeping diabetes at bay, another important reason to clock in the optimal amount of sleep, according to studies from Yale University and the New England Research Institutes. Women who get six hours or less of sleep a night are twice as likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime as those who snooze seven hours. How does sleep relate to diabetes? When you don't get enough sleep, your body appears to require more insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
Tips for longer, deeper sleep:
- Stay away from televisions, computers, smartphones before lights out.
- Hit the sheets at about the same time every night. Studies show that maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up time will help you sleep better.
- Moderate coffee drinking even if you don’t think caffeine affects you. Ditto for night caps. Have your drink earlier in the day rather than just before bed.
- Rest on bed sheets made from linen if you’re affected by night sweats. You may fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up in a better mood after resting on linen bed sheets, a study found. As a natural fiber, linen insulates when it’s cold, cools when it's warm.
- Try snoozing naked. For starters, it’s helpful to sleep with slighter colder temperatures (60-68º Fahrenheit is optimal). Cooler temps may allow you to fall into a deeper sleep and reduce the times you wake up in the middle of the night. Sleeping in the buff could also help you lose weight. As your body cools down at night, our body’s growth hormone rises while cortisol, the hormone that causes stress, dips. When we don’t sleep well, your cortisol level spikes, which can trigger your appetite for sugary foods like ice cream and cookies.
- Melatonin might help you fall asleep, but it’s unknown if it will boost sleep quality or sleep time.
We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, but most of us struggle with a quality slumber and it’s critical to our health and well-being. Take steps – counting sheep or otherwise – to make sleep a priority!