By Olivia Burns, HHS Aging Texas Well Coordinator
According to the National Institute of Health, one myth about sleep is that you need less of it as you age. Research shows that once you reach adulthood, you need the same amount of sleep each night — about seven to eight hours. This is especially important for older adults, as sleep quality may decline as we get older.
Research suggests getting enough sleep may decrease the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Quality sleep also has other health benefits, including reducing stress, getting sick less often and lowering risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
There are things that can impact your level and quality of sleep that you can’t always control, like non-traditional work schedules and impacts of health conditions or sleep disorders. Fortunately, there are strategies we can start to increase our quality of sleep:
• Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Experts recommend going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends, to support your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Limit daytime naps to an hour and avoid taking naps late in the day.
• Get regular exercise. Physical activity throughout the day has been shown to reduce fatigue during the day and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep at night. However, being active too close to bedtime can impact our body’s ability to settle down for sleep, so avoid intense exercise just before bed.
• Avoid caffeine, large meals and alcohol right before bed. Eating a large meal or drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. Experts suggest cutting off your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol a few hours before bed. If you need to eat before bed, try a light and easily digestible snack.
• Create a comfortable sleeping environment. From the type of sheets or pillow you use to the amount of light in your room at night, having a comfortable, sleep-inducing space can help you get better sleep. Tips for creating a better sleep environment include limiting the amount of light in your room at night, using sound machines or fans to block outside noises and keeping your room at a comfortable temperature.
For more information and resources on healthy aging, visit the HHSC Age Well Live Well website.