7 tips to help you get better sleep

People who get optimal sleep of seven or eight hours a night improve their cognitive skills, particularly reasoning and verbal abilities, compared to those who sleep one or more hours less, according to a 2018 University of Western Ontario study. The researchers found people who sleep less than four hours a night showed impairment equivalent to adding eight years to their age in terms of cognitive function.

A good night’s sleep is also important for older adults because it helps memory consolidation, reports University of British Columbia. Adequate sleep helps prevent disease by refreshing the immune system and allowing your body to repair cell damage, according to Harvard Medical School.

Older adults who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience depression, attention problems, daytime sleepiness and more nighttime falls. Insufficient sleep is also associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, says Harvard.

Sleep changes with aging

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults, but they tend to go to sleep and get up earlier than at a younger age, says the National Institute on Aging. The Canadian Sleep Society reports that about half of older adults complain about their sleep.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to overcome sleep problems associated with aging. Here are seven tips to help you enjoy enough healthy, refreshing sleep:

1) Exercise daily. Regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, helps you fall asleep faster, get more restorative deep sleep and awaken less during the night, says Harvard Health. Avoid vigorous exercise before bed.

2) Relax before bed. Try mindful breathing, guided meditation, gentle stretching or yoga, or soothing music as a nightly relaxation routine, Dalhousie University suggests.

3) Optimize your sleep environment. Sleep in a quiet, dark room with a cool, but comfortable temperature and minimal clutter, says the Canadian Sleep Society.

4) Avoid sleep disruptors. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and screen time before bed, advises Dalhousie University.

5) Limit naps. Best to have short naps before 3 p.m., says Dalhousie University.

6) Eat sensibly. Avoid eating heavy meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light, healthy snack 45 minutes before sleeping if you’re hungry, suggests the National Sleep Foundation.

7) Talk to your doctor. Consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist to determine if there are possible medical causes for chronic poor sleep such as obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or other conditions, advises the Canadian Sleep Society.