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You Can Sleep Better as You Age

A good night’s sleep is as important to your health as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. As we age, however, it can become more difficult to get deep sleep.

Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are sleep disorders more likely to affect older adults, says the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that causes you to stop breathing briefly many times a night while you sleep. If your spouse complains about your heavy snoring or says you seem to have trouble breathing while you sleep, see your doctor.

Restless legs syndrome causes tingling, pain, tickling, or the feeling that something is crawling in your legs. These sensations can cause you to kick your legs in your sleep and make your sleep restless. They’re not dangerous, but tell your doctor if they keep you awake.

Sleep problems

According to the NSF, these conditions that may also decrease your ability to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Chronic pain

  • Medications

  • Alcohol and/or nicotine use

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Stress caused by financial concerns, loneliness or loss of a relative or friend

Sleep savers

These suggestions can help you get a better night’s sleep:

  • See your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping. He or she can help determine the cause and recommend solutions.

  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity improves sleep.

  • Limit naps. A 15- to 20-minute nap no later than early afternoon can give you an energy boost, but a longer nap can throw off your sleeping schedule.

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch and alcohol after dinner. Caffeine can stay in your body and delay sleep. Alcohol can lead to disrupted sleep.

  • Practice good sleep habits. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. If you’re tossing and turning, get up and do something for a while.

  • Don’t self-medicate with over-the-counter sleeping pills, which can interact with medications you’re taking and can cause daytime sleepiness. If you believe you need sleeping pills, talk with your doctor.