Sleep allows our bodies to rest and repair, enabling us to wake up feeling refreshed and energised, and promotes better concentration and memory.
The older we get, the more important it is to ensure we are getting an adequate amount of quality sleep.
Unfortunately, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of people sleeping poorly has risen from 25 per cent to 47 per cent.
However, insufficient sleep can significantly deteriorate the way our body functions and lead to health problems, such as fatigue, as well as more severe issues, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, particularly as we get older.
While the potential health implications of poor sleep can seem daunting, and even life threatening, there are ways to help alleviate the problem.
Below, I share my tips for older Australians to improve the quality of their sleep.
1. Adopt a regular sleep schedule
Poor sleep can contribute to cognitive decline, increasing risks of dementia, and a decline in physical functioning, which can lead to an increase in falls. Consider a regular sleep schedule, and aim to sleep at least seven hours per night. Using the alarm function on your phone is a simple way to ensure you stick to this schedule, and there are several apps and devices that can help you track your sleep cycle. While some can communicate the number of times you move or wake up during the night, others can emit relaxing music or soothing white noise to help you fall asleep. Those who aren’t tech savvy may prefer to keep a handwritten sleep diary to track times they fall asleep and wake up.
2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
Our habits in the evenings, along with our environment, can have an impact on the quality of our sleep. Consider adopting a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine every night. This could include taking a bath, reading a book or drinking warm herbal tea before bed. Ensure the temperature of the room is comfortable for you and won’t cause disruptions to your sleep. Using weight, such as heavier bed covers or a weighted blanket, can also help improve sleep. Weight can mimic deep tissue stimulation, which can discourage movement and have a stress-relieving effect, helping you fall and stay asleep.
3. Avoid screen use before bed
Excessive screen use, particularly before bed, can have a negative impact on not only your ability to fall asleep, but the quality of your sleep. Using devices increases our exposure to blue light which, while beneficial during the day to boost your attention and mood, can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. To put your sleep schedule back in balance, set a time each night, ideally one to two hours before bed, where you limit screen use, or eliminate it completely.
4. Increase physical activity
It is important to maintain a regular exercise routine, especially as we age. In fact, studies have found a link between physical activity and sleep. One such study of individuals over 55 years old suffering from insomnia found they gained an extra hour and 15 minutes of sleep, after engaging in medium-intensity aerobic exercise – including walking, running or using a treadmill – for six weeks. Regular exercise also helps reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can help promote better sleep.
About the author: Davie Fogarty is an entrepreneur and founder of Calming Blankets – one of Australia’s highest-quality, science-driven weighted blankets. Davie established the brand in 2017, after discovering the benefits of a simple, weighted blanket on his sleep and health. Since then, Davie has grown the company into one of the country’s fastest-growing brands. www.calmingblankets.com.au