It’s probably not a surprise that as you get older, the ability to sleep well can become more elusive. And that can be a problem for us if our inability to get enough sleep is left to continue for a period of time. Isn’t our life supposed to be a little easier, simpler, and less stressful as we age?
Why does this happen? What can we as women over 50 and over 60 do to increase the opportunity for a refreshing night of rest? We know how important regular rest is to our overall health. How much sleep do women over 50 need? What are some natural ways to sleep better?
We’ll answer all of these questions, my friend, including twelve tips you can try to encourage your midlife body to be calm, relaxed, and fall into a healthy, natural sleep.
First, though, let’s consider why our sleep patterns change as we get older.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes. Please see the sources used in the creation of this article at the bottom of the page. If your sleep problems are of a continuing nature, including insomnia, please seek medical advice.
How much sleep do we need as we get older?
In general, healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep at night. I’m going to guess that a fair number of you will read this and disagree. You could function just fine on less than 7 hours of sleep, or need at least 10 hours to feel refreshed in the morning. I’m good with about 7 hours per night, and in fact 6 hours can be enough sleep for me.
However, we are all unique so there isn’t a set ‘rule’ for appropriate rest. What matters the most is how you feel when you wake up in the morning.
If you wake up periodically during the night and can’t fall back asleep, or you feel tired often during the day, your body may be telling you that it is not getting the sleep it needs.
Why Do We have trouble falling asleep as we age?
Many people find that as they get older their sleep habits change. Someone who slept well in their younger years now finds themselves wide-eyed during the night. Why does this happen?
As we age, our body produces lower levels of growth hormone, which results in a decrease in deep sleep (slow wave). This is a critical part of our sleep cycle. As a result, the melatonin production in our body decreases, so we may wake up more during the night or feel like our sleep is fragmented (it probably is!). That’s why the upcoming natural ways to sleep better are so important.
We might define ourselves as light sleepers in our midlife years. To compensate for some of these sleep habit changes we might find ourselves taking a nap during the day, going to bed earlier, or getting up earlier in the morning.
Other factors can affect our ability to sleep well, such as:
- medications we might be taking
- lack of regular exercise – and we know how essential exercise and fitness are for women over 50!
- stress resulting from a significant life event
- chronic pain or medical conditions
- Sleep disorders such as RLS (restless leg syndrome), sleep apnea, and snoring
Natural Ways to Sleep Better
Understanding the ‘why’ of less satisfying sleep as we get older is helpful, but now we want to do something about it. Most of us don’t want to take medication (or more medication), so here are some helpful, natural ways to sleep better.
See which suggestions and natural sleep aids resonate with you, and how you can adjust your routine, eating habits, snacking, the set up of your bedroom, and more, to find it easier to go to sleep, and stay asleep.
1 | Keep it physical
Regular exercise is not only essential for your overall health, it can help you sleep better at night. But, pay attention to the time of day that you’re working out.
Exercise will make you feel less tired and more energized if you work out in the morning or early evening. For example, aerobic exercise in the morning or afternoon will stimulate melatonin release when we need it. Higher intensity exercise in the afternoon or early evening can also promote a good night’s sleep.
If done at night, exercise can actually increase your alertness and keep you from falling asleep. Try to avoid working out within the two hours before bedtime.
All that said, if you are a person who can exercise in the evening and it helps you sleep better, do what works for you!
Here’s a Tip:
If you struggle with getting a good night’s rest, consider keeping track of the time of day you exercise as well as what type of workout you are doing. Yes, write it down! You might notice a pattern that correlates how well (or not) you sleep. Then you can adjust the workout schedule to give you the best opportunity to sleep well.
2 | Avoid long daytime naps
If you take long naps during the day, you’re may have trouble falling asleep at night, which, over time can lead to sleep deprivation. If you do need to take a nap, make it a short cat nap, and try not to nap after three p.m.
Napping too close to bedtime can also disrupt your sleep cycle by changing the time when your body starts producing melatonin, which helps regulate our circadian rhythms.
3 | Have a wake up & go to sleep routine
Wake up routine:
Telling your body at consistent times that it’s time to wake up or go to sleep will help regulate your body’s sleep cycle. So yes, there is something to be said for a healthy morning routine and an evening routine. Our bodies will come to anticipate and expect certain behaviors, and that can prepare both the body and the mind for a good night’s sleep.
If you’re someone who needs a lot of time to unwind before bed, make sure that the last hour or so before bedtime is reserved for relaxing activities such as reading and meditation.
In fact, some of us need to incorporate an evening routine into our lifestyle, to help us make wise choices. Just because we’re in our 50s, 60s, and beyond, doesn’t mean that we always do what’s best for us, or are beyond needing a little bit of help keeping things on track.
Here’s a Tip:
If you’ve never tried creating and following a morning (or evening) routine, give it a try for at least 2 weeks and see how your day, and your sleep improve. Implement one routine at a time based on your lifestyle, and see how it helps give you more quality sleep. Here are some tips for creating your own morning routine. If you want to establish a healthy go-to-bed routine, here are some great ideas.
4 | Let the natural light in during the day for better sleep quality at night
Natural light in your home during the daytime hours will provide you with a signal that it’s time to start winding down for the day when the light begins to dim. This will help your brain and body get the natural cues that it’s time for bed.
This will help promote your body’s sleep cycle and prepare you for bedtime. In fact, some studies have found that people who spend time outside during the day day do better sleeping at night.
Making your bedroom as light and airy as possible during the day will help you sleep well at night,too. Open up curtains or blinds to let in natural sunlight, and if possible and the weather permits, open windows for cross-ventilation.
5 | Skip the bedtime electronics
Ideally, discontinue using any type of electronics at least one hour before bed. The blue light from devices like your smart phone, tablet, Kindle, or iPad, can have a negative impact on your sleep quality because it is stimulating to the brain, which makes you want to stay awake longer.
If you must use electronics in the evening, try dimming them so they won’t stimulate you as much.
Here’s a Tip:
If you enjoy reading before going to bed, instead of the electronics, read a book. You know, one made from paper with pages that you actually turn. Sit in a chair and read, with good lighting, until you’re ready to go to bed.
6 | Keep the bedroom dark and cool to fall asleep easier
Try to avoid having lights on in the bedroom or in the area when you’re trying to get to sleep. Aim to get your bedroom as dark as possible so that you can sleep more soundly without any distractions. It creates an environment conducive to sleep and encourages production of melatonin, which regulates your body’s biological clock.
And, a room that’s too hot can prevent you from getting comfortable enough to fall asleep. If the temperature is high, it can even be uncomfortable and distract you as your body tries to regulate its temperature in a way that’s not conducive for sleep.
For this reason, try making sure your bedroom stays around 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.
Here’s a Tip:
Consider blackout curtains or add a layer of window covering. It could be a blackout window shade that pulls down when needed, or an outer layer of fabric curtains than can easily be pulled together at night.
7 | Skip the nightcap
You might be in the habit of a nightcap, but give it some thought if you’re also struggling with sound, good sleep. Drinking alcohol before bed can lead to disrupted sleep and disrupt your circadian rhythm which will make you feel groggy in the morning instead of refreshed and well-rested.
While alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it’s actually harder for people who drink alcohol to remain asleep.
8 | Drink some tea, nix the caffeine
There are several types of tea that will encourage a good night’s sleep.
Hibiscus tea is a good option because it contains natural plant compounds that promote better sleep. The antioxidants in green or white tea can also help with relaxation and helping to fall asleep quicker.
Passion flower tea is a good herb to try, as it acts as a mild natural sedative.
Chamomile tea is a popular option because it has calming properties (helpful for anxiety, too) to help you relax at night, promote sleep and relaxation without giving you a foggy mind when you wake up the next morning. You may want to drink this one before bedtime rather than during the day because of the calming properties.
The aroma of lavender tea might help you unwind and relax so you’ll fall asleep easier.
It is best to eliminate the caffeine from your intake by mid-afternoon or earlier if you are particularly sensitive. That includes coffee, tea, or any other food or drink that includes caffeine.
9 | Sip on tart cherry juice
For better sleep naturally, tart cherry juice is a great option. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin, and can increase the levels of this hormone in your body to help you fall asleep more easily.
The best time to drink tart cherry juice is around an hour before bedtime rather than too early in the day because it may cause drowsiness or interfere with sleep quality if consumed close to the time you go to bed.
Here’s a Tip:
Try this bedtime warm drink that includes tart cherry juice, chamomile tea, and honey: Tart Sleepytime Elixir
10 | Choose the right bedtime snack
Need a bedtime snack? You’ll sleep better if you choose foods that are high in tryptophan, which is an amino acid the body needs to make serotonin.
Some of these foods include turkey, eggs, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, and bananas.
Almonds are a good choice, too, because they contain magnesium, which has been shown to have a calming effect on the body. Eat a handful about 2 hours before going to bed.
11 | Melatonin supplements
Melatonin can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. In general, melatonin is safe for short-term use and it has few side effects when taken appropriately (though some people are more sensitive to the hormone).
If you have trouble getting enough quality sleep at night or if you feel tired during the day despite getting a good amount of rest, be sure to consult with your doctor.
12 | Deep breathing exercises
Taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises before bed can calm your mind and body, making it easier to slip into slumber and get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep because of a racing thoughts or stress from the day, deep breathes can also help slow down your heart rate.
There are many different deep-breathing exercises. Here is a simple example:
- Inhale deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs and then exhale slowly through pursed lips
- Start by doing this for one minute. Work up to five minutes as you get used to the technique
You can do these exercises when lying in bed or sitting upright on a comfortable chair before going to sleep.
If you find yourself tossing and turning when you’d much rather be sleeping, these 12 tips will hopefully get you back on track, naturally, for a better night’s sleep. Remember that ongoing issues with insomnia are best handled by seeking medical advice from a professional.
We can’t always solve our health and wellness concerns in an all-natural way, but whenever possible it’s a sound choice, and in this situation, can help with better sleep.
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