better sleeping habits

Good sleep, consistent exercise, and healthy eating habits are essential to living longer and healthier — and staving off disease. But for adults over 60, insomnia is a common problem and getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge. And, for anyone who may be suffering from pain or taking medications that affect sleep, a good night’s rest is as likely as Tony Bennett personally serenading you to sleep. Lack of sleep causes irritability, forgetfulness, depression and may increase the chance of nighttime falls.

But don’t stay awake worrying about it. Getting a restful night’s sleep can be easier than you think! Following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding afternoon naps and developing a bedtime routine such as reading or listening to soothing music can go a long way toward feeling refreshed and invigorated the next day. In a world ubiquitous with technology, your devices (iPads, cellphones, television) can make it difficult to fall asleep. So turn them off.

Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and avoid eating large meals or drinking caffeine close to bed time. For those with movement disorders such as restless legs or periodic limb movement syndromes, take a warm bath or use relaxation exercises. Free apps such as Headspace and Calm (free on iTunes and Google Play Store) can also help with relaxation through guided meditation.

Making your bedroom safe and only for sleep will also help. Keep a telephone with emergency numbers by your bedside and a lamp within reach should you wake up during the night. Make sure any area rugs are safely out of the way to reduce the chance of falling if you need to get out of bed.

Along with good sleep habits, studies show that exercise can help you fall asleep faster and longer. With regular exercise, you’ll also improve your strength and balance, increase energy levels, reduce feelings of depression, and prevent or delay diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Simple exercise like taking a walk, riding a bike, dancing or gardening is a wonderful way to increase movement and feel good – and sleep better! Exercise can also be a social activity. Many hospitals, senior centers and even malls have exercise, wellness or walking programs. So get out there and move and mingle!

Good nutrition also plays a part in getting a restful night’s sleep. Eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need will improve your sleep, as will cutting down on sugar and refined carbs such as white bread and white rice. Be a food artist! Bright, colorful food is generally the best choice to ensure you are having a balanced meal. This includes lean protein (lean meats, seafood, eggs), fruits and vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta), and low-fat dairy. Remember to add foods rich in fiber and low in sodium, and stay hydrated by consuming liquids, preferably water, with limited sugar throughout the day.

Sleeping well, eating right and staying active are the cornerstones of vital living.

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