Healthy Sleep Tips for Seniors from Dr. Perper

By August 7, 2013Archives

This week, our guest blogger is Dr. Perper,  the founder and Principal Psychologist of Therapy Changes, a group Psychology practice in San Diego, CA. Therapy Changes mission to  provide focused guidance when you need it most. The services are offered to those who are struggling with life’s most difficult transitions to regain a sense of engagement and control and start feeling better. For more information please visit Therapy Changes’s website.

Here’s Dr. Perper!

As we age we often experience normal changes in our sleeping patterns. We may become sleepy earlier, wake up earlier, or enjoy less deep sleep.  Although these changes are a normal part of aging, disrupted sleep, waking up tired every day, or difficulty falling asleep are not normal. Sleep is an important part of overall physical and emotional health and should be considered as part of a healthy lifestyle. This article will discuss strategies to help you feel more rested and overcome age-related sleep problem so you can get a good night’s rest.


How much sleep do I need?


While the amount of sleep required for feeling successful will vary from person to person, most healthy adults require between 7 – 9 hours of sleep. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that healthy older people may require about 1.5 hours less sleep than younger adults, or on average of 7.5 hours per night.  Although the quantity of sleep is important, it is more important to focus on how you feel following a night’s sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as quantity. Because older adults tend to wake up more often during the night, you might have to spend longer in bed to get the hours of sleep


Tips to Improve your Sleep


  • Daylight helps set sleep patterns, so try to be outdoors while it’s light out for at least 30 minutes
  • Exercise regularly, but more than four hours before bedtime
  • Avoid napping, or if you have to, keep naps short—less than an hour—and go without napping after 3 p.m.
  • Minimize your caffeine input (like coffee, teas, chocolate, and soda), which can take up to eight hours to wear off. Also, remember that tobacco is a stimulant!
  • Review medications with a doctor to see if you are taking any stimulants
  • Avoid alcohol, large meals, foods that induce heartburn, and drinking much fluid for several hours before bedtime
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, without distractions like TV or a computer
  • Start a bedtime ritual where you can relax before bed with a hot bath, deep breathing or another relaxation technique or reading or listening to music
  • Don’t get involved in any kind of anxiety provoking activities or thoughts before bed
  • Condition yourself to associate your bed with sleep. To do this you must use your bed for sleep only – no reading or watching TV in bed. If you find yourself lying in bed for more than 30 minutes and can’t fall asleep, get up, move to another room of the house and do something relaxing


Give yourself time to condition your body to a new routine. Practice these tips regularly and consistently. If your sleep problems persist after trying these tips consistently and regularly, it may be a good idea to get a medical check-up with your physician. Let them know what is happening in your life. Your sleep problems can be organic in nature as well as have psychological contributors. In fact, many cases of sleep problems can be traced to underlying emotional stress. Anxiety and Depression can cause insomnia and are common conditions for adults over the age of 50. If you feel that you could benefit from therapy or medication please talk to your doctor about his or her recommendations. You don’t have to suffer alone and help is available.

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