We’ve all heard that getting seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health. But your length of sleep and quality of sleep are two separate issues. A recent study by Iowa State University found that more people have trouble staying asleep. That may or may not be surprising, but that same study followed 165,000 people over a four year period (2013-2017) and found that each year, the problem of trying to stay asleep worsened.
Why is falling asleep difficult?
To stay asleep, you have to fall asleep, and that can also be difficult. There are a few reasons why falling asleep can be problematic. One recent study points to factors such as light exposure or genetics. But what’s keeping people awake the most is something you may not have considered: being worried or reflecting on your day.
In a study published in the NCBI, researchers had two groups. One group wrote a to-do list for the tasks they had planned for the next day. The other group wrote about the tasks they had already completed. The to-do list group was able to fall asleep significantly faster than the group that reflected on what they’d already done. And the more specific the to-do list, the faster those participants fell asleep.
Other factors that experts hypothesize may play a role in making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep is technology. A National Health Institute Survey found that “there is a correlation among smartphone use and insufficient sleep.”
Why is sleep important for older adults?
According to the National Institute of Aging, the idea that older adults somehow need less sleep is a myth. Older adults, seniors in particular, need the same 7-9 hours as young adults. Sleeping well helps with cognitive functions along with other health benefits, including increased energy.
5 ways you can fall asleep and stay asleep
With sleep being so important to our health, it’s crucial that you get enough of it. Here are five tips for falling asleep and staying asleep, as listed by Harvard Health.
1. Go to sleep at the same time every day
This is a top tip by many experts and researchers. Not only does creating the routine of a consistent bedtime train your brain to more easily fall asleep, but waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, helps with this pattern.
2. Don’t linger in bed
This is a tough one. Sometimes you wake up, but it feels so good lying under those blankets that you just don’t want to move. As difficult as it might be to peel off the comforter, lingering in bed longer than your sleep time can negatively impact your quality of sleep. First, you can fall back asleep, which will throw off your sleeping pattern. But also, staying in bed doesn’t complete the action of actually waking up. You need to get out of bed to make your brain understand that you’re following the pattern.
For those nights when you can’t fall asleep within twenty minutes of going to bed, or you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, try reading. It’s a relaxing activity that won’t overstimulate your brain and should help you go back to sleep. You can do other relaxing activities, but don’t do anything too stimulating like housework. That will backfire and cause you to be awake much longer than you want to be.
4. Write out a to-do list
This is based on the study published in the NCBI that we mentioned earlier. Writing out a to-do list made a significant difference in helping people fall asleep more quickly. There’s something about looking forward rather than reflecting that seems to calm the mind and allow you to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. Only spend five minutes doing this before putting away the pen and paper.
5. Avoid daytime naps
Especially naps that get closer to the late evening. Any nap during the day can interfere with your sleep at night, but the later the nap, the more probable the outcome becomes. If you really focus on getting a good night sleep, you should be able to get through the day without napping.
Your sleep should be sound
When looking at some of the factors that contribute to not sleeping well, you should notice that many of these are in your control. While something like genetics is out of your hands, avoiding technology and too much reflection are steps you can take to help improve your quality of sleep.
A lot of the tips are fairly simple. If you struggle with sleep, try some of these and see what happens. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor if the problem persists.
Try meditation workshops at Boomerang
Harvard Health also says that daily exercise can reduce the difficulties you have sleeping. At Boomerang, we offer online meditation classes for seniors and yoga workshops online. You’ll be joined by our growing community of friendly members and experienced hosts who will surely make you feel welcomed.
Sign up for Boomerang and join our weekly discussion group. You’ll get to ask questions, think of new ideas and learn new skills.