There’s a reciprocal relationship between sleep, aging and health.
A history of bad sleeping habits is shown to affect health, leading to aging faster.
Underlying health issues can further affect sleep, leading to years being taken from your life.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Genetic disorders and family histories are things you can’t change or avoid. However, sleep is an area everyone can — and should — take responsibility.
Getting Better Sleep at 50 and Older
There are essentially two broad categories of improving sleep:
- Stop bad habits (even if you’ve been doing them for decades)
- Develop good habits (this works no matter how old you are!)
Step #1: How To Stop Bad Sleep Habits
There are dozens, maybe hundreds of poor sleeping habits. But a few are the most effective at making sure you have a restless night.
- Eating/drinking: A big meal before bed, drinking too much coffee after noon (or alcohol at night) are a few of the biggest mistakes made that wreck a good night’s sleep.
- Screentime: Experts recommend staying off of screens and not watching t.v. an hour or two before bed. This allows your brain to get ready for rest.
- Weekends: When you have to get out of bed, you do. But on the weekends, it’s not time to sleep in. Doing so can ruin progress on your sleep schedule.
- Breaking curfew: The same way getting up late hurts, so does going to bed too late. Consistency is the key to success when it comes to getting good rest.
Further reading: Here are some additional bad habits to help you on the journey.
Step #3: How To Create Good Sleep Habits
Here is a short list of highly effective things to start doing.
- Exercise early: When you wake up, cortisol levels (stress hormone) are higher. Working out helps use those hormones wisely. At night, melatonin (sleep hormone) levels are higher. Working out early helps decrease the stress and increase the sleep hormones.
- Get a routine: Train your body to know when it’s time to go to sleep. Time showers, reading and other things closer to bedtime.
- Create an environment: Turn your alarm clock around, so you don’t see the light. Leave the TV off and only use your bedroom for sleep. This creates an environment your body relates to sleep.
- Same time up and down: Set a time to go to sleep and a time to wake up. Keep this routine 7 days a week to ensure you don’t fall off the wagon before creating the new behavior.
One Tip for Cutting Bad Habits & Picking Up Good Habits
Don’t do everything at once!
If you’re used to sleeping in, going to bed late and drinking coffee all day long — trying to stop all of them at the same time won’t work.
You’ll find yourself in the same position days, or even hours after you began.
List out your bad habits and then try changing one or two at a time. See how it improves your sleep.
Getting more rest will help you keep changing for the better.
The same is true for good habits. Begin by taking a 30 minute walk in the mornings and going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you reach your desired bedtime.
Before you know it, your sleep life will be transformed.